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Bid for second Middletown Chick-fil-A gets major boost


A former Ruby Tuesday restaurant closed since January of 2021 is closer to becoming the second Chick-fil-A in Middletown.

At its Wednesday, July 26 meeting, the township zoning hearing board voted unanimously to grant a special exception and four variances needed for the project at 1440 E. Lincoln Highway (Business Route 1) next to a Lowe's and Wells Fargo Bank.

Richard Wilkinson, head of the Florida-based Wilkinson Development Co. that is doing the project for Chick-fil-A, said the plan is to tear down the Ruby Tuesday and put up the Chick-fil-A with two drive-through lanes on the same spot. The project also requires land development from the township board of supervisors, and Wllkinson said he "certainly hopes" the BOS grants such approval.

He roughly estimated the new restaurant, if it receives land development approval, would open in September or October of 2024. Wilkinson was also the developer on the Lowe's and Wells Fargo Bank and has developed several other shopping centers and other projects at various spots in Bucks County.

Much of Wednesday night's discussion revolved around a previous Chick-fil-A bid to put a new restaurant right across East Lincoln Highway in the Langhorne Square Shopping Center, a proposal from another developer that is now dead, according to Wilkinson. He said he has a letter from a Chick-fil-A representative stating the company's withdrawal from the Langhorne Square project but is not able to make that letter public.

"They would never put another store across the street, it makes no sense," said Wilkinson when asked by ZHB members whether Chick-fil-A might try to revive its bid for a new restaurant in Langhorne Square. "I understand they spent $1 million across the street and ended up with nothing and have been trying to negotiate a deal with me for about a year."

While saying his agreement with Chick-fil-A does not technically contain a "radius restriction" prohibiting the chain from locating another new restaurant within a certain distance of 1440 E. Lincoln Highway, Wilkinson said in response to a question from ZHB member Kevin Strouse that he is confident his project will remain the only Chick-fil-A along that particular stretch of the highway. If built, the new restaurant would join the Middletown Chick-fil-A roughly a mile away at Lincoln Plaza, adjacent to the Oxford Valley Mall.

The special exception and variances granted Wednesday night allow a restaurant with drive-through service at the location, a smaller rear yard setback than normally required, a smaller overall site-wide parking ratio and for the new Chick-fil-A to open at 6 a.m. instead of the normally required 7 a.m. A condition of approval is that Chick-fil-A provide an off-duty police officer to better manage traffic for the first 30 days after the new restaurant opens.

Like the former Ruby Tuesday, the new Chick-fil-A would share access in and out of East Lincoln Highway with the Lowe's and Wells Fargo Bank. Wilkinson said the timing of a traffic light at the access might have to be adjusted to make traffic flow smoother. That possibility and many other subjects will be discussed during the land development process, he and his representatives on the project added.

Zoning hearing board member Michael McGuffin expressed concerns about Lowe's storing landscaping, gardening and other materials closer and closer to the former Ruby Tuesday since it closed. Wilkinson said that practice will be curtailed if the new Chick-fil-A is built.

"So folks waiting in their cars for Chick-fil-A won't be smelling cow manure?" McGuffin asked.

"I don't think so," Wilkinson responded.

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