August 15, 2013

Augusta rejects new Dunkin' Donuts

Planners turn down a proposal for a sixth franchise in the city after many residents oppose it.

By KEITH EDWARDS Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA – Tim Jackson is a fan of Dunkin' Donuts, but the Fairview Avenue resident has no interest in his favorite coffee chain coming any closer to the neighborhood he's called home for all of his 57 years.

click image to enlarge

This property at corner of Stone and Davenport streets in Augusta won't become a Dunkin' Donuts.

Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

"My father built the house I'm in now. We decided to live there because it's a real neighborhood," Jackson said while speaking against a proposal to rezone a Davenport Street lot to make way for a proposed new Dunkin' Donuts store there.

"It's one of the few places in Augusta where you can still play ball in the streets. I could do that.

"My kids could do that, and now my grandson can do that today. I'm a Dunkin' Donuts fan, but I will drive that seven-tenths of a mile (to the closest existing Dunkin' Donuts) to go get my coffee."

The Augusta Planning Board, following testimony by Jackson and many fellow residents of a close-knit neighborhood tucked tightly against the congestion and commercialism of Stone Street and Eastern Avenue, voted unanimously to reject a zoning change needed for the project to move forward.

Planners took just a couple of minutes to decide to reject the zoning change request Tuesday, after they heard about two hours of testimony from residents who made it clear that Dunkin' Donuts in their neighborhood is not their cup of tea.

Neighbors of the site said they worry that a busy restaurant with a drive-through lane would bring even more traffic congestion and increase what they said is a trend of motorists looking to avoid long lines at the Stone Street and Eastern Avenue traffic lights by taking a short-cut through their neighborhood's streets.

"This is going to fundamentally change the nature of this entire neighborhood," said Matt Rideout, of Davenport Street.

"I would not have purchased my house two years ago if there was a Dunkin' Donuts there. This restaurant could easily go somewhere else, and we need to put an end to this before it goes any further."

Cafua Management Co., the Massachusetts-based company looking to open the new franchise location, proposed to demolish a former auto repair shop at 89 Stone St. and a home at 1 Davenport St. for the proposed store, which would require a zoning change for the Davenport Street lot.

The developer still could ask city councilors to consider the change, according to city Development Director Matt Nazar, despite the negative recommendation by the Planning Board.

Scott Braley, of Plymouth Engineering, spoke on the developer's behalf Tuesday.

He agreed there is a lot of traffic in the area, saying that's why the business wants to be there.

Braley said the potential new business shouldn't be blamed for existing traffic conditions or for motorists detouring through a neighborhood to avoid a traffic light.

He also said he thinks concerns about traffic could be addressed with careful engineering.

A. Delaine Nye, a board member who lives on Fairview Avenue, in the same neighborhood, offered to recuse herself from discussing or voting on the issue, but other board members said no.

There are already five Dunkin' Donuts franchises in Augusta.

Neighborhood residents, including Mayor William Stokes, who lives on Fairview Avenue, said they aren't opposed to a business moving into the 89 Stone St. site on the corner of Davenport Street, a former Citgo auto repair garage.

"The Stone Street property is zoned commercial, and I hope to see it used (by a business)," Stokes said.

"But I'm adamantly opposed to Davenport Street. The idea we'd encroach into a residential neighborhood for a drive-thru restaurant with coffee and doughnuts strikes me as absurd." 

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

kedwards@centralmaine.com

 

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