An unopened fried chicken restaurant is re-igniting a neighborhood debate over healthy food versus tasty food.

The ready-to-open Popeyes restaurant in Codman Square is drawing opinions from some residents who say the area is already too saturated with unhealthy food options and others who say the store would bring familiar flavors to the neighborhood.

"I'm just all for fresh food," said Shamara Rhodes at the Dorchester Winter Farmer's Market on a chilly Saturday afternoon. The weekly market takes place in the Great Hall of the Codman Square Health Center and offers farm-to-table meats and produce, healthy cooking demonstrations, and other locally-produced products.

Rhodes, 27, has been managing seasonal markets on behalf of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council since last June. The health conscious group, for which she now serves as a board member, has forcefully opposed the opening of the Popeyes restaurant for the past several years. She and other members of the neighborhood council have argued the area has a plethora of dining options that contribute to poor health among minority residents.

"I do love Popeyes. I used to visit the one in Everett," Rhodes confessed with a smile. "But do we necessarily need another one two blocks away from another McDonald's or KFC? Do we need more fast-food restaurants?"

Members of the Codman Tenants Task Force, like Louisa T. Rose, reply, "yes."

"I would love to have the Popeye[s]," said Rose while waiting with friends for her son to bring her a chicken dinner from a different local restaurant. "We love Louisiana style and we love those peas and rice."

Rose, an 88-year-old resident of a senior housing complex who uses a wheelchair to get around, said a local Popeyes store means she would spend less money when asking someone other than her son to fetch chicken for her.

The prospect of a Popeyes in Codman Square has survived despite public opposition from two city councilors, the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services and a pair of licensure denials from city agencies.

The restaurant applied to the city's building department in 2016 for a conditional use license — one that only the Zoning Board of Appeal can approve — to operate exclusively as a takeout restaurant. At that time, officials from the Boston Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club and the Boston NAACP expressed support. Both Council President Andrea Campbell of Mattapan and At-Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George of Dorchester expressed opposition. The board denied the request, yet, to residents' surprise, stakeholders continued to build out the store.

According to William "Buddy" Christopher Jr., commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department, the project was approved to move forward "as-of-right" after the would-be franchisees reapplied as a sit-down restaurant that would sell less than 75 percent of its food for takeout consumption.

"Since sit-down restaurant was an allowed use, they were able to meet the building code and zoning issues, so their permit was issued as-of-right," without any community process requirements, Christopher explained.

Later, in April 2018, the Licensing Board denied the restaurant's application for a common victualler license with prejudice, meaning the board would not reconsider its decision. The license is required to operate a restaurant in Boston. In documents obtained by WGBH News, the two board members who voted against the license cited public opposition, the Zoning Board's earlier denial, the unhealthy nature of the menu items sold, and concerns about trash and traffic. The company is now suing the board in an effort to overturn the decision.

Brian Haney, an attorney with the firm Sweder and Ross who represents the business, said the dispute is likely several months away from being settled in court.

According to the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, co-owners Amish Parikh of New York and Howard Hymowitz of Wakefield, Mass., have already spent "almost $1 million" on the still-shuttered restaurant. Parikh is CEO of The Parikh Network, which operates at least three Popeyes locations in the city of Boston: one in Roslindale, one in the Fenway, and one in Roxbury.

Haney points to members of the Codman Tenants Task Force and a stack of signed letters as evidence of community support for the restaurant.

"We know they're not a Sweet Greens, they're not a Whole Foods, they're not a sushi restaurant," Haney told WGBH News. "But if I want to eat there, who is a leader on a particular neighborhood group to tell me I shouldn't? Who is the licensing board to tell me, 'Nope'?"

"If there is a concern about people eating this type of food," he continued, "the free market will take over, and we'll go out of business."

State Rep. Russell E. Holmes of Mattapan agrees.

"Everybody's grown," he told WGBH News, noting that he represents constituents who are both for and against the establishment. "I don't eat at Popeyes, just like I don't smoke marijuana. We as adults make decisions about our health and what we choose to put in our bodies."

Holmes also pointed to the dozens of jobs the restaurant would create, the amount of money the business has already invested, and said that business owners' vow to address community concerns "balances out the question about health."

"Chicken ain't the only thing that's going to make you sick," Rose responded when asked about the health concerns. "Long as you don't eat too much of anything — when you eat too much, you get sick."

Meanwhile, Rhodes has vowed that she and other members of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council are committed to blocking the restaurant.

"We're going to fight it because we worked so hard just to get a market in the community for fresh fruit, for fresh vegetables — for that to all just go down the drain," she said. "No, we're going to fight this until we can't fight no more."

Clarification: A previous version of this story failed to specify that it was the Boston NAACP, not the national organization, that expressed support for a conditional license for the local Popeyes in 2016.