The City Council, once again, turned away a proposal that would ultimately seek to add a Dunkin’ Donuts to the shopping plaza at 79 Lynnfield St.
The proposal did not gain enough support from the council this summer, needed to go forward, and only faired marginally better Thursday night. This time, attorney John Keilty was representing the property owner directly – Linear Properties out of Washington – and offering a plan they hoped addressed the council’s concerns on traffic safety.
“[The owners] find it, frankly, almost incomprehensible why there can’t be food at these premises,” Keilty said Thursday – a number of food establishments surround the plaza.
After the July 14 hearing, in court, arguing it wasn't supported by the evidence -- an actual traffic study at the time -- and was legally untenable. Subsequently, however, he and a traffic consultant met with police, the Fire Department and Community Development to hash out some improvements to traffic patterns on Lynnfield Street leading up the busy intersection with County and Summit streets.
"We have come up with a mitigation plan that makes sense. It’s in their [his client's] interest to make it a safer place and a better functioning place," Keilty said.
His goal was to present a plan that the Planning Board and City Council could deem had “specific and material changes” from the original application. If both boards agreed, then the council would hold another public hearing on the matter; otherwise, Keilty’s client would have to wait two years before applying again for a special permit.
Ward 2 Councilor Arthur Athas, who lives down the street from the plaza, said he did not believe the changes to the proposal were all that significant and felt the traffic improvements should be made regardless.
He said he felt like Keilty was asking for a Dunkin’ Donuts in exchange for a crosswalk. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Fix all those things up and then come back in two years… Maybe it will fly then,” Athas said, arguing once again that the high-volume coffee shop would only make a “dangerous” traffic area worse.
The traffic report prepared for the project said Dunkin’ Donuts would not really change the existing traffic pattern in the intersection, but Athas disagreed with that assessment and argued the numbers in the report appeared to indicate otherwise as well.
Athas and Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz still questioned if the matter was properly before the council that night. They felt the Planning Board overstepped its authority by ruling there were significant changes made to the original plan.
Assistant City Solicitor Brian Barrett was present to address that point and told councilors it was up to them to determine whether the plan was significantly or materially any different now. That decision, however, could even simply be based on cosmetic changes to the plan, Barrett said, noting cases in other communities where that happened.
Sinewitz, noting he was going to support Athas as the ward councilor of the area, said he had hoped to see something different for the plaza, something other than Dunkin’ Donuts. He was also still displeased at the prospect of seeing the proposal back before the council so soon.
“You’re reducing our power, you’re making us irrelevant,” Sinewitz said, speaking at Keilty. “Two years.”
Ward 3 Councilor Rico Mello said he didn’t see any significant changes either.
“This is not a material change, what’s material is that it’s still a Dunkin’ Donuts,” Mello said.
Ultimately, the vote ended 7-4, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to allow for a public hearing again in January.
Joining Athas and Mello in opposition were Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz and Ward 4 Councilor Robert Driscoll. Anne-Manning Martin, David Gravel, Ted Bettencourt, Barry Osborne, James Liacos, David Gamache and Michael Garabedian all voted to give the petitioner another chance to present the modified project before the council.
The traffic changes being proposed were as follows:
- Add a pedestrian crosswalk across Lynnfield Street at the corner of the restaurant over to Norfolk Avenue with bright yellow signage and arrows.
- Make it clear Lynnfield Street is only a single lane until the plaza driveway with “fog line” striping from Land & Sea into the driveway. Two lanes would then be striped from that point to the intersection.
- Install a median in the driveway to clearly separate entering and exiting lanes.
- Create a more clearly defined right-turn only exit on the Summit Street side with bright yellow signage, arrows and striping.
- Create employee-only parking spaces with proper signage adjacent to that exit.
- Erect other signage as needed.
Athas later made a motion to send those changes to the Municipal Safety Committee to discuss implementing them anyway.