Five Guys Burgers and Fries could have used some of its fanatical followers on the Town Plan and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.
The commission, on a 5-2 vote, rejected the popular restaurant chain's attempt to open in a retail development on Grasmere Avenue in Fairfield that's anchored by a new Whole Foods Market.
Five Guys was short 13 parking spaces for its proposed restaurant, and some commission members who visited Whole Foods over the weekend said the parking lot was packed, and they didn't want to create a shortage of parking spaces by approving Five Guys.
Other commission members said Whole Foods was still a novelty in Fairfield and that the huge crowds may diminish as time wears on.
Matthew Wagner, a commission member who voted in favor of Five Guys, noted that the owner of the 10.5-acre development by Grasmere Avenue and Kings Highway East lost parking spaces by creating a "shared access" with The Home Depot and that the shared access wasn't a requirement.
"They didn't have to create that shared access and they had a sufficient number of parking spaces" for Five Guys, Wagner said. "Technically speaking, they didn't have to do it that way, and they would have had a tremendous overflow of parking."
"This is 13 spaces, representing a few percentage of overall parking on the site. I don't think we should be short-sighted here," Wagner said.
James Kennelly, a commission member who also voted for Five Guys, indicated it was contradictory for the commission to encourage shared access with an adjoining property owner and then punish a property owner for creating it.
But Richard Jacobs, a commission member, said town officials were told the "King's Crossing" development would have "high-end" retail tenants in the building that wasn't to be occupied by Whole Foods or CVS. That one-story building, at 22,772 square feet, now has Chipotle Restaurant, Chase Bank and PETCO as identified potential tenants. Whole Foods is in a 48,346-square-foot building and CVS is to occupy a 14,845-square-foot building.
Marco Valera, a commission member, said he thought adding Five Guys to a building that already was to include Chipotle, created "too much dining of the type that increases traffic."
Assistant Town Planner James Wendt said 50 spaces in the development weren't yet available due to work on the building that will house CVS.
Douglas Soutar, a commission member, said the Town Plan and Zoning Commission could deny Five Guys as a tenant and wait three to six months to see whether traffic generated by the new Whole Foods diminished.
But the commission ultimately decided to deny Five Guys, with Valera, Soutar, Jacobs and commission members Deborah Owens and Seth Baratz voting in opposition and Wagner and Kennelly voting in favor.
If Summit Development of Norwalk is intent on having Five Guys in the development, they could seek a waiver of 13 parking spaces from the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, according to Wendt's response to a question from Kennelly.
Five Guys, which has nearby restaurants on the Post Road East in Westport and on Westport Avenue in Norwalk, already was advertising on its website an upcoming restaurant in the "King's Crossing" development anchored by Whole Foods.
Five Guys first opened in Arlington, Va. in 1986 and now has more than 750 restaurants in more than 40 states and four Canadian provinces, according to the zoning application.