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Votes

No Break for McDonald's

WFCCA says no to McDonald's 4 a.m. opening.

The Centreville McDonald's put in a special order with the county to open up an hour earlier, on weekdays, but got a resounding "No" Tuesday night from the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.

Long fed up with the appearance of the McDonald's next to the Fort Hill Building on Route 28, the members have a serious beef with the restaurant because McDonald's continually ignores their complaints. As a result, they don't want to do it any favors.

"I'm against the whole idea," said WFCCA member Kathleen Hill. "They just haven't been a good neighbor."

The request came about after local residents asked McDonald's if it could regularly open at 4 a.m., instead of its usual 5 a.m. Many residents are up and about then and, apparently, are hankering for coffee and a McMuffin.

But the WFCCA already had a bad taste in its mouth from the restaurant's rooftop fluorescent lights, brightly glowing interior lighting and violations of the county sign ordinance with its exterior banner signs displayed on a wrought-iron fence.

It initially viewed McDonald's request as a chance to finally get it to comply with the WFCCA's wishes on these matters, in exchange for permission to open earlier. But in the end, the WFCCA members just didn't believe McDonald's would keep its promises.

Attorney Keith Martin pleaded McDonald's case, Tuesday, to the WFCCA, but admitted that county staff is recommending denial. "They say it's inconsistent with the neighborhood — that no other fast-food restaurant in the area opens that early," he said. "Staff said, if it's approved, it must conform with the newly adopted county lighting ordinance — meaning no roof-lighting, and all parking-lot lights must be full cut-off and shielded.

Martin said McDonald's agreed to pull the plug on its roof lighting and would treat its windows with tinting to reduce the glare coming from the restaurant's interior. Asked the WFCCA's Jim Hart: "How about no clown, pyramids or plastic castles on the roof, and no banners on that railing along [Upperridge Drive]?"

Martin said fine, but WFCCA's Carol Hawn added, "I find their painting signs on their windows to be the most offensive. That, to me, is the biggest complaint." WFCCA's Richard Smith asked if there was any way "to kill some of those [outdoor] lights, but Martin said the customers "feel safer in a brighter parking lot."

WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm said that McDonald's has a "negative impact" on the adjacent properties, and WFCCA member Judy Heisinger worried that it could set a precedent for other fast-food restaurants here, and she objected. Added Hill: "If they open at 4 a.m., Wendy's [planned for construction] across the street is going to want to open at 4 a.m." And so might the nearby Burger King, said another member.

Terpak-Malm wondered if an earlier opening would result in earlier deliveries being made there, too. But Martin said the delivery schedule wouldn't change. However, Heisinger noted that employees would have to arrive earlier to have food ready for the 4 a.m. customers.

At first, the WFCCA considered approving the proposal, but the motion failed, 5-2, with only Hart and Hawn voting in favor. But, explained Hawn, "The only reason I voted for it is because it's the only way to get them to comply with anything."

But, replied the WFCCA's Russell Wanek, McDonald's "doesn't comply with anything now, so why should we approve it?" That's right, said Hill: "They may agree to do the proffers, but they still continue to put their signs up. It's bad. I don't want to do [them] any favors. If staff recommends denial, I recommend denial."

The WFCCA voted again and, this time, with Hart abstaining, the outcome was unanimous — 6-0 to recommend denial of McDonald's request.