The Unity Planning Board of Appeals punted the Main Street Dunkin’ Donuts project back to the Planning Board for further work at a Nov. 16 hearing.

The community center reached its COVID-19 capacity of 25 people by the start of the meeting, with a line of residents waiting in the wings hoping to at least hear the proceedings.

The new Dunkin' Donuts proposed between Nason Drive and Vickery Lane in the historic downtown area has some residents questioning how this project will “preserve Unity’s rural character,” as described in the town’s Land Use Ordinance.

Abutting neighbors also say that notice was not properly given, and many of them found out about the project later in the Planning Board process. In mid-September, the board approved the new franchise, but since then, community interest regarding the project has grown.

Chairman Bob VanDeventer said the Appeals Board consulted with the town attorney and felt it did not have all the information it needed to proceed. It did not have the final minutes from the Planning Board.

Abutting property owner Liz Dyer said she felt it was a positive move to have the Planning Board revisit the project. "We've been working hard to inform people about the appeal," she said.

Dyer said the first time she heard of the project was the night before the Planning Board meeting where the project was approved. "It was a little discouraging," she said, when she was told at a selectmen's meeting, "Sorry, it's done. This is already decided on."

Dyer had collected dozens of signatures from residents who felt they had not had enough notice and presented the names to selectmen. "The petition was not to stop it," she said, but rather to give the community time to have a say in what she called a "major change" happening in the town. People need to have an opportunity to have input, she added.

Kristin Mozes, one of the organizers opposing the development, said the Appeals Board hearing was "certainly progress." She hopes the Planning Board will reverse course, but she is prepared to continue fighting if it does not. "It's a good boost," she added.

First Selectman Penny Sampson said there will not be another Planning Board hearing, but rather a finding of fact and conclusion meeting. There are some questions that need to be addressed, she said.

In order to accommodate more people, the next Planning Board meeting will be held Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Unity Snowdusters Clubhouse on Fisher Road.

The next Board of Appeals hearing will be held Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m., also at the Unity Snowdusters Clubhouse on Fisher Road. For more information, call the Unity Town Office at 948-3763.