Aroma Joe’s Coffee Franchising, LLC is proposing a 5,000-square-foot, two-story building at the corner of Main Street and Route 196 to house a drive-thru coffee shop, two commercial tenants and two upstairs apartments. Rendering by ALPHAarchitects & Pepperchrome

TOPSHAM — Plans for a proposed Aroma Joe’s coffee shop at the intersection of Route 196 and Main Street was tabled Tuesday, but not before an attorney for the applicant took planners to task for requiring changes that have driven up costs significantly.

The project was tabled largely so the planning board can further review traffic safety issues.

Aroma Joe’s Coffee Franchising, LLC wants to build a two-story 5,000-square-foot coffee shop at 1 Second St. The building would house the coffee shop and two commercial tenants on the first floor and two apartments on the second floor.

Most opposition to the project revolves around the proposed drive-thru and whether it is compatible with the town’s vision for Main Street.

Kevin Clark of Sitelines Consulting Services, the engineering firm hired by Aroma Joe’s, said Tuesday that the project isn’t viable without the drive-thru.

“We started with trying to do a traditional coffee shop at this corner site and after nearly 11 months of design iterations and meetings with consultants and staff, peer reviewers, this is where we are at at this point,” Clark told the planning board Tuesday.


Because the coffee shop is considered a fast food restaurant in Topsham, the town requires it be compatible with the town’s comprehensive plan and neighboring properties. A comprehensive plan drives the rules the town makes for what kind of development it allows and where.

Three town committees submitted letters to the planning board in January and February opposing the project — the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, the Conservation Commission, and Topsham Development Inc.

Topsham Development Inc., the town’s quasi-municipal economic development arm, argued the project is not in following with the 2008 Topsham Main Street Village Plan and the 2019 Topsham Comprehensive Plan that call for dense development close to the street with pedestrian-friendly street designs.

“A fast-food business with a drive-through is the polar opposite of these design and function goals,” TDI argued in January. ”

According to a memo from Town Planner Rod Melanson and Assistant Town Planner Andrew Deci, the 2008 Main Street Plan indicates that drive-thru fast food restaurant operations are not desired at this location.

However, Melanson confirmed Tuesday there are no rules that prohibit drive-thru restaurants in this area of town.


Most of the planning board members spoke in favor of the project and the revisions made by Aroma Joe’s.

“They’ve done a lot of work to give more than a nod to what the Main Street vision is,” said planning board member Bruce Van Note, “and when you look around that area after this is built… this will be certainly promoting what I think was the core of what we’re trying to do, and a drive-thru on the backside of Second Street is not a disqualifier for me.”

Tim Bryant, an attorney representing Aroma Joe’s, said his client initially proposed to build an 850-square-foot building with a drive-thru but embraced making changes to meet the town’s vision for its Main Street.

“Those requests grew and grew into the 5,000-square-foot building with mixed residential and commercial use that’s before you tonight,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the changes have driven up the price tag by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Aroma Joe’s is also being asked to spend more than their fair share of money to address safety issues with the abutting Route 196 and Route 201 intersection, he argued

“I respectfully suggest to all of you tonight that enough is enough,” Bryant said.

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