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New Dunkin' Donuts site a tough sell for neighbors

By Fran Gonzalez | Oct 06, 2020
Courtesy of: Town of Unity An architect's drawing of a proposed new Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street between Nason Drive and Vickery Lane in the historic downtown area of Unity.

Unity —

A new Main Street location for Dunkin' Donuts, currently at the Depot Country Store, was approved by the Planning Board Sept. 23, but not everyone is excited about the move.

The proposed location 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.

Adjacent property owner Elizabeth Dyer said at the Sept. 29 selectmen’s meeting that the project seems out of place and the land use is shortsighted, adding that the Planning Board's approval violates the guidelines of the town ordinance.

Dyer said in a letter she read at the meeting that she, along with other nearby property owners, did not receive notification about the project or the Planning Board meeting. Dyer said she heard one day before the meeting by word of mouth.

The project would “degrade the rural character of our town,” with air pollution from idling cars, noise, light pollution and an overall traffic increase in the area, she said. The large parking lot would be unsightly and would add to the drainage problems in a flood-prone area.

“At the Planning Board’s Sept. 23 meeting, there were very few attendees, which we now know means that other stakeholders were also uninformed about this project,” she said.

In her letter to selectmen, she asked if the Planning Board could extend the public comment period until property owners and other interested parties have time to review the proposal and make comments.

According to engineering documents on file at the Town Office, the proposal calls for construction of a 2,064-square-foot building with a two-lane drive-through and 18 parking spaces. The 29-foot-wide entrance would be located on Vickery Lane, which would have to be widened to accommodate the traffic flow. The estimated cost for the proposed project is $1.5 million.

A traffic study noted the development is expected to generate 212 a.m. and 75 p.m. weekday visits.

Kristin Mozes lives on Vickery Lane with her husband and 20-month-old son in a house that is directly behind the proposed coffee shop location. “This is his playground,” she said, referring to her son and pointing to her shady backyard.

She, too, said she did not hear about the project or the Planning Board meeting in sufficient time. The only way she found out about the Dunkin' proposal, she said, was through a Facebook post.

“There was no notification of meetings,” she said. The project was only advertised in one newspaper and with no details at all. “It just points to a lack of transparency from the beginning,” she said.

Mozes has formed a coalition with other concerned residents and supporters and has also started a GoFundMe site to raise funds for anticipated fees associated with the appeal process.

“We don’t want to see a Dunkin' Donuts there,” she said. “We want something that is a community-focused business.”

Mozes wondered why the project was not sited in Unity’s retail development area, she said, on School Street by the Unity Shop 'N' Save. That is the designated retail development area and is more suited for this type of business. She also objects to the parking lot lighting, which she said would illuminate her property.

“It’s just against the law where they want to put it,” she said, and added the Planning Board was applying the Land Use Ordinance “very loosely.”

Lori Grant Nason, daughter-in-law of Ralph and Nancy Nason, former owners of the ramshackle farmhouse at 170 Main St. — one of the two lots where the shop would be located — said the couple has made a lot of investments in the town.

“They’ve been good citizens and have employed many people,” she said, “and have paid a hell of a lot of property taxes. They have the right to sell it.

“If a person followed through with their proposal (in 2016), there would be a gas station there. There was nothing to stop it. Where were you in 2016, Kristin?” she asked. “Did you come to the meetings?”

Nason admitted that if the project were located in her backyard, she would not like it, either, but added, "there would be nothing I can do about it.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Penny Sampson said this is the first time “I’ve seen an aggrieved party file an appeal on an approved permit.” The Planning Board has already made its decision, she said, and any aggrieved party has 30 days from the time of board approval to file an appeal. That would make Oct. 23 the deadline to file an appeal.

In a conversation with The Republican Journal Sept. 29, Sampson said the project would remove a blighted property from Main Street, and felt it would make the street look better. It would also help decrease traffic on Depot Street, where the business is currently located.

“From a business standpoint,” she said, “it makes sense (to move to Main Street).”

At the Sept. 29 selectmen’s meeting, Sampson put out a request for a resident to fill one seat on the Board of Appeals. Sampson said the board was trying to have former Chairman Bob VanDeventer come back to fill the vacant spot. “And then resign again,” she said, if he chose to.

Sampson said Joe Nason, grandson of Ralph and Nancy Nason, had put his name in to be on the board, but added he might have to recuse himself because of “perceived bias” in this case.

According to documents filed by project engineers, upon approval by the Planning Board, construction will commence with the removal of the house on the site. The site will then be cleared in preparation for the proposed building and parking area. The anticipated completion date is 2021.

Several attempts to reach Dunkin' Donuts franchise owner Colleen Bailey of Norridgewock were unsuccessful.

A farmhouse located at 170 Main St., formerly owned by Ralph and Nancy Nason, was sold to Colleen Bailey, owner of the Dunkin' Donuts franchise currently at the Depot Country Store. A letter of intent to purchase for $140,000 was signed Aug. 13, 2019, by all parties. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
A map showing the approximate footprint of the proposed Dunkin' Donuts project on Main Street between Nason Drive and Vickery Lane in Unity. (Courtesy of: Google Maps)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: from the kitchen | Oct 07, 2020 06:42

Tough luck for the nimbys. What could be a more community-focused business than a drive thru donut shop?



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