Farm Burger Seeks Parking Variance For Old Viola Space

Among the items on tonight’s Zoning Board agenda is a parking variance request from WPD Center LLC, which hopes to open up a burger joint called “Farm Burger” in the old Voila space.

According to the city’s summary, the site (which includes Watershed, Your Best Cleaners and the vacant space), currently has 54 parking spaces, but the parking code requires 65.   Viola got around this obstacle by entering into a shared parking agreement with 402 West Ponce (Ponce Preventative Care), however that agreement has since been terminated.

54 spaces for that modestly sized restaurant?  Am I the only one that finds that a bit ridiculous?

But a heated parking debate is only one half of this multi-layered story.  The other is this intriguing new restaurant called “Farm Burger”.  Luckily there’s a “Farm Burger” concept statement is among the enclosed documents for the Zoning Board to consider.  Here’s a taste…

“Farm Burger will take product sourcing  as serious as it takes crafting one of the world’s finest burgers.  Our belief is that a great burger starts with exceptional beef from exceptional cows raised on sweet Georgia grass alone.  With that guiding principle, Farm Burger’s ingredients will be: 100% grass-fed, 100% locally grazed Georgia beef, 100% organic (or beyond).

It starts with a $6 burger…From there we will offer a wide-range of seasonal accouterments, many grown on our 100-acre organic farm in Athens, Georgia, as well as diverse artisanal cheeses, housemade pickles, local eggs, and culinary delicacies, such as roasted bone marrow, house-cured bacon, and charcuterie.”

For more, see pages 11 and 12 of the ZBA’s packet for tonight’s meeting.

h/t: InDecatur

49 thoughts on “Farm Burger Seeks Parking Variance For Old Viola Space”


  1. You mean to tell me there’s a way to support local business and local food and it involves eating hamburgers? Throw in some local brews and it’s a locavore trifecta. Sweet!

  2. 65 parking spaces, really?! Well, I’m glad there’s a prospect for the vacant Voila space, even if it’s a fancy burger place. Yes, yes, we’re s city inundated with pizza joints, cupcakes, and frozen yogurt/ice cream. Add burgers to that list now. Let’s see, we have Brick Store, Leon’s, Ted’s Montana Grill, Pharmhouse, U-Joint in Oakhurst. I think Thumb’s Up has a burger on its menu too. While these places don’t specialize in just burgers — or 100% organic, locally-grazed Georgia beef (I think Leon’s has that on its menu though) — I do wonder if the market is saturated.

  3. It’s be a shame if the space continues to sit empty if the City doesn’t grant them the variance. Maybe it sounds like an overworked concept (for now), but at least it’s something most people would like. I’m still hoping something will come in & take Eviva’s place as the local go-to shoe heaven…

  4. There are some good burgers available in Decatur, but I think there’s room for a place that specializes. Maybe it will keep me from going to Five Guys so much.

    Is the number of parking spaces related just to that space, or does it take into account the needs for Watershed too?

  5. The number of parking places required is based upon the square footage of the serving area – I can quote Decatur Code if you want.

  6. The count applies to the whole site, so it includes Watershed, Your Cleaners and whatever goes in Voila.

  7. In a city that encourages pedestrians, can the city zoning administrators or decision makers turn down with a straight face an environmentally friendly restaurant that will benefit the local economy, over a lack of parking?

    1. Amen, brother. It’s difficult to accomdate the automobile and the pedestrian at the same time. If decatur wants to be “walkable” it’s a perfect time to walk the walk.

      1. InDecatur provides what might be an indicator of what’s up:

        “The request is opposed by some residential neighbors.”

        I can only assume someone has “concerns”. At least a few folks ’round those parts are bigger fans of enforcing King Auto-era regulations than they are of fostering a strong, walkable strip. I have to assume that plays a role in whether or not city leadership addresses it head on.

        If you think a pragmatically progressive town like Decatur should abandon its suburban parking regs in favor of an approach that acknowledges the kind of community we’re trying to be, light a flame under your commissioner!

        1. I think this concern probably refers to the folks who live in the neighborhoods down Northern Ave et al. A lot of those residents complained to me that the overflow parking comes into their neighborhoods. People block driveways, ruin the grass, etc. I don’t think its “pro-car” people as much as it is people who don’t like their residential neighborhood becoming overflow parking.

          Its a tough issue, because you can see where these residents are coming from, but obviously there’s a real need to attract downtown business development.

        2. Ah…I found what Dave is referencing. Check out pages 22 and 23 of part 1 of the packet. Some of the same 315 folks who also went after Trinity Triangle at the very last moment.

          And it should be noted that Kathie Gannon is again amongst them.

  8. Why haven’t our city commissioners changed the parking requirements in the past 40 years from an era when the auto was king? Come one guys and gals get with it.

    These should not be decisions passed on to an unelected citizen board. Your job is to set policy. Show some leadership!

  9. Many progressive cities have lowered and occasionally eliminated on-site parking requirements for many uses. Decatur should consider the same.

    It is a shame that Farm Burger has to go through this officious process. If they are brave enough to open a restaurant in this environment, they should have a red carpet set out to show them the way in.

    I hope the city “rubber stamps” this request with no opposition and the minimal procedures needed to make it legitimate.

    1. I can’t speak for the commission, but I’d say that if there are a fair number of people out there that want the parking requirements changed, they need to speak up and let the commission know. Next year’s Strategic Plan update would be a good time to do so, or you can do it right now.

      Seems like they only hear from the Drivable Growth folks when this issue comes up.

    1. It’s not, though that’s a complaint I’ve heard in the past. I guess we used to have Jake’s and Cold Stone’s, which are both gone now. We’re not inundated with ice cream places, but there are some good places here. I love Yogurt Tap! 🙂 Cafe Cliche has great ice cream. Greene’s has soft serve. Relics and Rarities and Nectar serve ice cream as well.

    1. These concerns are nothing new, Steve, that Amanda or the commissioners need to be made aware of. This was essentially the problem with the 315 project (parking requirements in the code) and what have they done since? Nothing. Ignored it. Business as usual.

      We just had an election. We wont see any action from the commissioners for, I’d say, another 18 months or so which will coincide with the next actions taken to protect the incumbents – 6 months or so before the election.

    2. I don’t think that it’s Amanda who needs to be contacted here. It’s the commission. However, I don’t agree with Pete that the community has ever given any sort of “get rid of parking requirements” mandate. In fact, I’d say they see the opposite.

      Like James referenced elsewhere in this thread, people go to these meetings to complain about cars parking in the residential neighborhoods. So, for whatever reason, the loudest folks at commission meetings are pro-parking.

      If there is a group of folks out there that wants to make a bigger picture argument against parking, they need to organize themselves and show the commission that they exist.

      1. Agreed. And the first thing that needs to be done is reframing the position so it’s not about being “against parking”!

        Seriously. No one’s against parking. The goal is a balanced use of resources, which means you don’t cripple one facet of the community to fully appease another. Opponents are thinking in black and white, residential vs. commercial terms and this requires a shades-of-gray solution. E Ponce shares one block face out of four with the houses directly north. It’s part of the neighborhood, whether people like it or not.

          1. Not sure what distinction you’re making. On my map of Decatur, every street north of that section of West Ponce runs into a residential neighborhood.

            1. No distinction; just not thinking in a “subdivision” way. Northern, Fairview, Ponce Pl. and Montgomery form traditional blocks. One side (of the four) of each block is commercial and/or mixed use. To me, sharing a block but considering one side “outside” the neighborhood and the other three “inside” the neighborhood is silly. They’re all in this together and they need to work together to everyone’s consideration and benefit.

              As I said, just my opinion. Thinking of neighborhoods as solely residential or strips of arterials as solely commercial was a 20th century suburban experiment. No shortage of professionals — or ongoing market data — now suggests it’s one that’s been (or is being) discredited.

              I’m not saying favor the commercial at the expense of the residential. I’m saying Decatur is better, and more creative, than some of our current one-size-fits-all regulations suggest. There’s room in the middle for all sides to have their needs met.

        1. You’re 100% right Scott. It’s not really about “lets get rid of the parking requirements” so much as telling the commissioners that the current “on-site” requirements are not in fitting with the walkable, livable, urban environment that we are supposedly trying to create in downtown Decatur.

          What do on-site parking requirements create if followed? A bunch of parking in front of retail – the very thing that we’ve been trying to get rid of for the past 20 years. Our code should acknowledge the urban environment that we are in. It should allow for shared parking between mixed uses – parking for certain businesses would not compete for parking at certain hours – and let businesses take that into account when submitting plans to the city for how their customers will park.

          The City Commission has had about a year to consider shared parking in downtown Decatur after the disasterous failure of the 315 project. But what has it done? Nothing. It hasn’t lifted a finger. It still refers parking problems on an individual basis for variance to the zoning board. No leadership has been shown at all, in my opinion.

          1. Umm, Pete. The commissioners approved the 315 project. What is the “disastrous failure” of which you speak? The property owners and development company are the people who did not move forward with the project.

  10. Speaking of new eateries, DM, when you gonna update the sidebar to reflect the newcomers (and the already-demised)? Not harpin’, just noticin’…

  11. There are 20 places to get a burger in a 1 mile radius of the square. Who would even think that was an un-net need of Decatur. Let’s just say it one more time…Alons.

  12. There are 20 places to get a burger in a 1 mile radius of the square. Who would even think that was an un-met need of Decatur? Let’s just say it one more time…Alons.

  13. I propose Spiral Parking Decks at every business. Similar to spiral staircases, a winding driveway with a single car parking space at every “level”. This way, a 54 space requirement would be met by a 54 story, parking “deck” that has the physical foot print of about 3 or 4 surface level parking spaces. A good engineer could design the deck like building blocks, so a more “popular” use could quickly add more parking, and if the use ever declines in popularity….the spaces could be sold and relocated to the trendy business on the block.

    I’d like to call it “Decatur Spires”.

  14. Tell me a Flip Burger wouldn’t be a huge hit in Decatur despite the fact that you can even get a burger at Zucca’s pizza joint.

    1. is the city in discussions at all to create a city shared parking agreement w/ the 315 lot or other option? seems like it would alleviate neighborhood concerns and benefit all of the businesses at that end of Ponce. I’m not sure how many different property owners there are down that way- it may be enough that would make negotiating parking use difficult.

      Going at this from a different direction, at the time of the 315 development discussions I forwarded info to Amanda regarding use of neighborhood permit parking that I’ve seen used (and enforced) very effectively in other cities. It would be great to be working on something like that now, in particular for the neighborhood(s) that border that end of Ponce, as the impact of parking on the residential areas isn’t going to go away. If we thought in terms of this kind of solution, the city may be more able to comfortably grant parking variances in the future b/c they’d be banking on drivers knowing there is limited parking and changing into walkers (and business taking on the risk that the behavior won’t change/they won’t get enough customers).

  15. Lest we forget… beef comes from cows. Flatulent cows to be exact. Methane-emitting cows. And methane is reportedly many, many times worse in terms of global warming thna CO2. As one environmentalist said on PBS recently, if you’re driving your Toyota Prius to the grocery store to buy beef, then you’re still part of the problem.

  16. Yes, but since a “Shared Bovine” ordinance in Decatur would have little positive effect, I’d say we stick with making a difference where we can (personal choices are, of course, a different matter…)

  17. Does anyone know if they are related to Farm 255 in Athens? I heard a rumor that they were looking at decatur. If so – i am THERE! If their burgers/food/atmosphere is anything like Farm 255, Decatur is lucky.

  18. Don’t grass fed, local cows have a smaller environmental impact than what we find in the 20 burger joints in our vicinity?

  19. With So Rare closing up shop, I’m more ticked than ever that the city didn’t make some effort to work with a potential new restaurant. I relocated to Decatur because I like having shops and restaurants within walking distance. If the current trend continues, there won’t be shops & restaurants to walk to. Hey future diners, you are welcome to park in front of my house on Woodlawn. Maybe we can walk and grab a burger together?

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