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 — Topsham Planning Board Tuesday approved plans for a drive-thru Aroma Joe’s coffee shop at the corner of Main Street and Route 196, if the state issues a permit requiring safety upgrades to an adjacent intersection.

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

The project was proposed by franchisee Loren Goodridge of Bowdoin. He expressed concerns Tuesday that the cost of the Main Street and Route 196 intersection improvements the Maine Department of Transportation is requiring could jeopardize the project.

Assistant Town Planner Andrew Deci said Wednesday that the Maine Department of Transportation is requiring Goodridge to build sidewalks along Second Street from the Aroma Joe’s site to Monument Way and install a crosswalk across Monument Way. Goodridge said Tuesday he’s prepared to do that.

At issue are the MaineDOT’s requested upgrades to the Route 196 and Main Street intersection, which is considered a high-crash location. According to the transportation department’s website, there have been 39 crashes at the intersection since 2018, resulting in nine injuries but no fatalities.

The MaineDOT’s definition of a high-crash intersection is one with at least eight crashes over a three-year period.

Deci said MaineDOT wants traffic signals on the traffic lanes where eastbound Route 196 traffic exits onto Main Street, and westbound traffic exits off the Route 196 Coastal Connector to turn north onto Main Street. There have been 10 crashes where traffic merges from Route 196 onto Main Street southbound between 2017 and 2019, according to the Maine DOT’s online crash data.

Deci said these traffic lanes currently only require vehicles to yield to other vehicles traveling through the intersection. MaineDOT is asking the developer of the Aroma Joe’s project to install traffic signals to slow traffic so pedestrians can cross through the intersection more safely.

The coffee shop is expected to draw more foot traffic through the intersection, which is why MaineDOT wants more pedestrian safety measures. Deci said the applicant plans to serve the surrounding neighborhoods including students of Mt. Ararat High School, located on Main Street north of the Route 196 and Main Street intersection.

Goodridge told the board Tuesday he is considering pulling the project because he fears the intersection improvements required by the Maine DOT to get the permit, which he believes could cost upwards of $70,000 and make the project unfeasible.

Planning board member Bruce Van Note questioned the $70,000 price tag and urged Goodridge to talk to the transportation department first. Van Note is currently the state Transportation Commissioner as well.

“That’s not my understanding that what that costs at all,” Van Note said.

While Goodridge has every right to halt the project, “I hope you don’t, honestly,” Van Note said.

 

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