AUGUSTA — Plans to open two new Dunkin’ Donut restaurants in the city have generated backlash from residents who say the development will lead to increased traffic congestion around their neighborhoods.
The Planning Board will hold public hearings at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers for a proposal to redevelop a former credit union on Western Avenue into a Dunkin’ Donuts and a request to rezone a residential lot on Davenport Street on the city’s east side to allow a Dunkin’ Donuts to be built on Stone Street.
The board will also hold a public hearing for a Maine Department of Transportation request to rezone 19 Meadow Brook Road from rural river district to planned development district to allow consolidation of Maine Department of Transportation services on Industrial Drive, off Leighton Road near its intersection with Civic Center Drive in northwest Augusta.
The proposed Stone Street location for the coffee shop has generated the most controversy, said Matt Nazar, development director for the city, because it lies on the border of residential and business zones.
“Obviously whenever you a have a potential impact on a person’s home or place of residence, it’s an emotional issue and that’s very understandable,” he said.
Nazar said the main objections from residents stem from the likely increase in traffic around the neighborhood. He said the Planning Board will also consider the impact the change could have on lighting and noise before it decides whether to grant the rezoning request.
“There are all sorts of potential impacts that a business like this would have that residences currently would not,” Nazar said. “Obviously, Dunkin’ Donuts facilities are generally known to be large traffic generators.”
The city received two nearly identical letters signed by 24 households in the neighborhood around Davenport Street citing concerns about the increased traffic that would come with a new Dunkin’ Donuts.
The letters, written by Thomas Palmer of Davenport Street and Carol Tuttle of Fairview Avenue, said the new business would cause more people to avoid the traffic light at the intersection of Stone Street and Eastern Avenue by driving through the neighborhood the intersection borders.
It also said the change would exacerbate congestion in an already congested area and make it difficult for residents to enter and exit the neighborhood.
“The quiet, residential nature of the neighborhood and the health and safety of its residents and pets will be severely compromised, if not completely destroyed, if the requested zoning change is permitted and the proposed development is allowed,” Palmer wrote in his letter.
The developer, however, argues in the proposal that the neighborhood would benefit because the location would save residents from driving farther into the city for a cup of coffee.
Cafua Management Co., LLC, the Massachusetts-based company looking to open the new franchise, is proposing to join two lots — 89 Stone St. and 1 Davenport St. — and demolishing the buildings on them.
The Stone Street lot is home to a former auto repair shop, and there is a house and garage on the Davenport location. The proposal calls for the conditional rezoning of the Davenport location to allow for the Dunkin’ Donuts to be built.
Phone calls and emails to the management company were not returned.
After the Planning Board makes its recommendation on the request, the developer can then take the issue to the City Council, Nazar said. The City Council would hold two public hearings if it wants to vote on the issue.
The proposed Dunkin’ Donuts at 22 Western Ave. faces a significantly less-involved process, Nazar said. If the Planning Board approves the site development proposal on Tuesday, the company will just need to get building permits before it starts the work.
The business would be taking over a former C-Port Credit Union branch, which moved farther up Western Avenue in 2010. The business would also use a parking lot on Melville Street for additional spaces.
The management company plans to close the Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner on Sewall Street, which is only a drive-through, if it opens the Western Avenue store.
The drive-through was built less than a decade ago after the management company closed a Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Western Avenue and Sewall Street. Around the same time, the Planning Board rejected a proposal from the company to build one with a restaurant and drive-through on Western Avenue on the corner Melville Street.
The proposal faced strong opposition from neighborhood residents with concerns about increased noise and traffic issues.
The few concerns from residents about the current proposal on Western Avenue have been questions about whether the developer would be leaving the Sewall Street drive-through location open, Nazar said.
“I’m not sure that one is going to generate a great number of concerns,” he said. “It may generate a few because there are some residents directly adjacent to it.”
One resident, Tim Bolton, who lives on nearby Chapel Street, said he objects to having a drive-through on a busy road like Western Avenue.
“I’m fine with the restaurant, but in my personal opinion, I don’t think drive-throughs are appropriate in a congested traffic area like that. It just adds to the risk of crashes,” he said.
“It’s a shame people can’t get out of their cars anymore to buy doughnuts,” Bolton added.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663