M/clear
42°
M/clear
Hi 49° | Lo 24°

Dunkin’ Donuts plans for Bernardston withdrawn

Sandri can reapply at any time

BERNARDSTON — Plans to add a Dunkin’ Donuts to a Church Street gas station were withdrawn amid confusion over the town’s zoning laws.

The A.R. Sandri Co., owner of the Church Street Sunoco station, withdrew its application at a Thursday Zoning Board of Appeals hearing before much was said on the matter. ZBA Chairman Daniel Devine said 50 to 75 residents turned out to air their concerns and hear Sandri’s proposal.

The board accepted the withdrawal without prejudice, meaning the company can reapply at any time.

Michael Behn, chief operating officer for Sandri, said the company plans to do so once it clears up the confusion.

The hearing brought to light a possible problem with the town’s center village zoning bylaw, approved in 2010.

As the bylaw stands, said Devine, no new restaurants with takeout service or drive-through windows are allowed in the town’s center. However, the bylaw does allow for a “restaurant, other” to operate under a special permit.

This caused confusion for the board and Behn.

However, Hillside Pizza, across the street, opened in 2011 and offers seating and takeout, leaving Behn to wonder if the pizza parlor, and therefore possibly a doughnut shop, fit within that “restaurant, other” definition, rather than “restaurant, drive-through, takeout.”

Plans for the Dunkin’ Donuts included a 14-seat dining area and takeout service, but no drive-through, according to Behn.

Monday, he said, Sandri will begin to look into the matter, and find out if its plans might be allowed without bylaw changes.

If so, Behn said, the company will re-apply to open the franchise.

If the bylaw needs to be rewritten, however, its approval would require a town meeting vote.

Before the current bylaw, restaurants with takeout service were allowed in the center village zone by special permit.

“I honestly think something was misconstrued” in writing the bylaw, said Devine, adding that most restaurants today offer takeout in addition to seated dining.

Resident Susan Wilcox started a petition against the doughnut giant. Among her concerns were that the shop would detract from the rural, historic aesthetic of Church Street.

Behn said the renovations could fit in with the street’s character more than the current gas station. Plans also call for the Sunoco’s gravel lot to be paved, entrances and exits to be changed to alleviate traffic concerns, and for the size of its signs to be reduced.

“You would be hard-pressed to know it’s a Dunkin’ Donuts just by the look of it,” he said. “It won’t look like the typical Dunkin’s.”

“I wish (Sandri) had brought their plans to the hearing,” said Devine. A visual representation of the project, he believed, would have given people a better idea of what the store would look like, possibly allaying some concerns.

Behn said he will be sure to distribute and display copies of the site plan, so that residents will have a chance to see what the shop would look like before the proposal is brought to another hearing.

Other concerns of petitioners included increased traffic, and competition for the nearby Country Corner store and 7 South Bakery, both of which sell coffee and pastries.

Those stores, along with other restaurants in the town’s center, offer takeout, and were established before current village center zoning went into effect.

Behn told The Recorder previously that he thought a Dunkin’ Donuts would bring more people into town, giving other local shops more exposure and business. He said the other pastry shops offer higher-end goods than the doughnut chain, and doesn’t think it would take away from their clientele.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

With a sign on the highway traffic will be a problem. How will the town handle this? Church street already has problems at it's intersections. Another concern residents have is this: Would the gas/ Dunkin Donuts have ample parking after replacing the 40 year old septic? Certainly 18 wheelers shouldn't be parking on top of one. The zoning laws were put in place to protect the town and it's residents. Hillside pizza is a restaurant. It has 40 seats. The proposed gas station take out, Dunkin Donuts, will have 14 seats. Shouldn't the residents of Bernardston have a voice in this decision? Susan Wilcox

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.