Developers were given the preliminary go-ahead after the site plan was approved by the New Hartford Planning Board this evening, 5 to 1.
"A lot of people are gonna wanna stay with mom and pop businesses, this is a true Italian area, and a lot of people will feel like its fake Italian food."
But not everyone agrees.
"World class corporations locate in our community is always a good thing. They see something in our area and they want to be part of our community," says Jerome Donovan, New Hartford Planning Board member.
Along with the salad and breadsticks, some say the Olive Garden can also brings growth and change to the area.
"It's something new. Those who want something for a variety once in a while can go to something like Olive Garden, it's a great place," says Michele Ward, Marcy resident.
The proposed Olive Garden would be built on a vacant lot across from the Kmart Plaza on Commercial Drive, between the newly opened Metro Mattress and the former Men's Warehouse. Nearby Italian eateries say they're not looking forward to the competition but they're not necessarily concerned.
"We serve good food, we have good service, there's a lot of good Italian restaurants around here. Hopefully people appreciate the Italian home cooked meals they can get in Utica," says Michael Trunfio, owner of Michael T's.
"You have people that are loyal to our "mom and pop" type restaurants in this area. And I think they'll continue to go there even with a chain here. They have their things to offer and we have our things to offer. They don't have chicken riggies and greens and things like that," says BJ Evans, owner of Tony's Pizzeria.
The Planning Board had many questions about the impact the restaurant would have. Customers making a left-hand turn out of the restaurant onto commercial drive is a concern.
"This worries me because I'm concerned about traffic crossing 2 lanes trying to get into the west bound lane," says Donovan.
Donovan says he didn't want to approve the incomplete plan, without seeing traffic studies in the area.
"I would've much preferred that the planning board could review traffic studies that the developer presented to the town. that information was not shared with the planning board this evening prior to our vote," says Donovan.
Developers from N&D Restaurants say the proposed Olive Garden would be about 80,000 square feet and would include nearly 250 seats and 130 parking spaces. Hours will be from 11am to 11pm and it could also be one of the first test sites for "Car-Side To-Go service."
The preliminary plan will now be sent to concerned agencies like the Department of Transportation and the Oneida County Health Department for a state Environmental Quality Review.
Board members anticipate another vote in the next month or so. And if all goes as planned, the Olive Garden could be under construction as early as this coming spring.