23 Aug 2014
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Coffee Talk Fills Town House as ZBA Pours Over Dunkin' Donuts Proposal

The Board of Zoning Appeals held a public hearing Wednesday night on a special permit application that seeks to convert the former Friendly's building to a Dunkin' Donuts.

Dunkin’ Donuts packed the Town House last night as their application for a special permit went before the Board of Appeals on Zoning.

Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner Michael Cavallo plans to invest $500,000 into the former Friendly’s building to make it an “upscale” Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Routes 109 and 27.

Cavallo also operates a store at 270 Main Street which will remain open in addition to this store.

At a public hearing of the Board of Appeals on Zoning Wednesday night, renovations were described as updating the front portico; replacing current windows with “colonial style” windows and adding more windows on the Route 27 side of the building; reconfiguring the interior (to one-third seating, one-third cooking/preparation space, and one-third storage); maintaining the current parking lot configuration and lighting; and adding signage to the front and side of building.  

The new Dunkin’ Donuts will retain the walk-up window through which ice cream (a Dunkin’ Donuts brand) will be served, and will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cavallo agreed to shorten the hours of operation after abutters complained about his initial request of 5 a.m. to midnight.

There will not be a drive-thru at this location.

“I’m pleased to hear there’s not going to be a drive-thru,” said ZBA member Thomas Reis. “I think we have enough congestion on 109 now and a drive-thru would just add to that.”

Reis was also concerned about delivery trucks maneuvering the parking lot which representatives said would not be a problem.

The owner of the building, Robert Basile, told the ZBA that the Dunkin’Donuts proposal was the best plan to come forward – in part because it offered extensive renovations – since he put the building up for lease in October when Friendly’s abruptly closed its restaurant. 

Cavallo’s attorney, Edward Cannon, said the site will operate much like the former Friendly’s.

“It would function very similar to the way Friendly’s has for years,” he told a full Town House.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ traffic engineer Jason Adams said the renovated restaurant would only add 140 vehicle trips a day – approximately 75 in the morning, 25 mid-day, and 40 on a Saturday morning. 

Dunkin’ Donuts corporate representative, Robert Mahoney, said those numbers are based on industry standard, which lumps all coffee shops and fast food restaurants into one category, and said the number of vehicles would be less.

Cavallo said that, after the morning rush, business “tapers off for the most part.”

Adams said that, yes, at times cars will be in queue and may have to wait 25 to 30 seconds to exit the parking lot, but added that, if people have to wait too long or have difficulty cutting across traffic on Routes 109 or 27, they will not stop at that store and will seek another place for their morning coffee.

Main Street resident Tom Cahill, whose driveway is directly across from Friendlys’ Main Street driveway, said the new Dunkin’ Donuts traffic would “wreak havoc on the morning commute” and “will devastate the neighborhood.”

Deborah Erickson, who lives a short distance from the site on Spring Street (the southbound side of Route 27), agreed with her neighbor and said it often takes her at least three minutes to pull out of her driveway in the morning.  

Cahill also questioned the addition of only 140 vehicle trips a day and suggested that it would likely be many more than that for the business to justify spending $500,000 in renovations.

Police Chief Robert Meaney Jr. commented on the traffic study Dunkin’ Donuts submitted to the ZBA and said that he will be working on synchronizing the traffic lights on Route 109 in hopes of alleviating some of the traffic congestion.

Cahill said he understands the right for businesses to operate in that area “but I don’t believe that that should come at the expense of someone else’s quality of life.”

ZBA acting chairman Stephen Nolan scheduled an on-site visit for weekday morning next week to view the traffic flow, and said he would take into account that this is the summer and traffic is higher during the rest of the year. 

The ZBA will then make a ruling on the application for a special permit. 

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