City Council Says 'No' Again to Dunkin' Donuts

A proposal that would ultimately seek a Dunkin' Donuts at a plaza on Lynnfield once again failed to gain enough support from the council.

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.

Nineset December 09, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I would rather have a different franchise go in there... starbucks, five guys, mary lou's, a butcher shop, or anything other than another DD. I can get to 3 different Dunkin's within 1 mile of that plaza. We need another Dunkin's like a hole in the head.
Bob Croce December 09, 2011 at 09:05 PM
John, You missed the point with your headline here. The city council didn't last night reject the DD. Last night's vote was on whether the application for a special permit could legally come before the council again in January. To meet that requirement, the petitioner had to prove that his new application was significantly or materially different from what was rejected back in July. The councilors last night were NEVER asked to vote on whether they were in favor of the DD, The reason some of the councilors voted no this time was because they felt the application was not significantly or materially different, and thus it was inappropriate, under the rules, to bring it back for a new public hearing. It's a subjective argument, but it's also important that -- to protect the integrity of the special permit process and the authority of the council in its role -- that "significantly or materially different" be a high standard to meet. The one councilor, who clearly understood that was Councilor Driscoll, who actually voted in favor of the special permit back in July. For what it's worth, i feel that Councilor Driscoll voted the right way BOTH times. The special permit process, after all, could turn into a farce if petitioners were able to change around a few words and come back again and again after being rejected.
Peabody Native December 10, 2011 at 01:35 AM
Bob, You are correct that last night's vote was on whether or not the Peabody City Council should re-hear the case for a special permit for a Dunkin Donuts to operate at the CVS Plaza at 79 Lynnfield Street, but you are wrong in the stating of some of your ideas. Firts of all, Councilor Driscoll voted against the original special permit in July (you can check the minutes of that meeting to confirm his previous no vote), and he voted against re-hearing the application last night. Secondly, the threshold that an applicant needs to meet for changes to be considered materially different is not a large threshold. The precedent case for this is "Ranney vs Board of Appeals - Nantucket, MA). In this case, application for an addition to a motel in Nantucket was declined, but the case was re-heard after the applicant made the following changes: 1. revision of the outdoor lighting plan so that all lights were flush with the ceiling and elimination of direct lights or fixtures which might be visible in any direction from an elevation twenty feet above the level of the parking area; 2. installation of blackout drapes in the windows of the proposed addition; 3. installation of sound insulating materials in the exterior walls of the proposed addition so as to suppress noise; 4. landscaping of parking area along its westerly boundary with an 8 foot private hedge. These cosmetic changes were deemed significant enough that the case was reheard.
Peabody Native December 10, 2011 at 01:48 AM
In the Peabody Dunkin Donuts case, the special permit was originaly voted down by a 5 to 6 margin (including a no vote by Councilor Driscoll). Reasons given for decline were hours of operation and traffic concerns. The new special permit application contained a reduction in operating hours (as the closing time was moved from midnite to 10:00 PM) and a provision was added in which the applicant was going to pay for significant traffic improvements to try to make the intersection safer and more efficient. A working group (of the police dept., the applicant, city inspectors, and a traffic engineer) has been meeting for the past few months and they were making excellent progress in establishing traffic improvements that would help this whole area, but this no vote will nullify these improvements. I think that the applicant's willingness to trim their operating hours and to make (and pay for) traffic improvements are definitely material changes to their original application and I am dissapointed that this re-hearing was turned down. Seven of the eleven City Councilors voted to rehear the case, and those seven Councilors (Gamache, Garabedian, Gravel, Liacos, Bettencourt, Osborne, and Manning Martin) should be applauded for doing what is in the best interest of the city of Peabody.
Bob Croce December 10, 2011 at 06:02 PM
You are right on Councilor Driscoll's first vote. My bad, but I stick by my original opinion that he voted the right way this time. The precedent you refer to from Nantucket is irrelevant, since the phrase "significant and material" is subjective. I have no way of knowing if they made a call that was in the best interests of Nantucket. But when you consider the differences between Peabody and Nantucket, the comparison is like cats and dogs. Nantucket has a population of less than 4,000, so using that case as a precedent and voting solely based on that precedent, I feel, is not doing your full due diligence. Our city councilors, as part of their special permit watchdog role, should decide -- based on the circumstances in Peabody and not a quaint island town -- whether the application is "materially and significantly" different. My opinion is that it is NOT, and that's why I applaud Councilors Driscoll, Mello, Sinewitz and Athas for voting no. That doesn't mean that I feel some of those who voted "yes" were being irresponsible, but I do disagree with their judgment call in this case. And certainly, they were elected by us to make those tough judgment calls, so this definitely isn’t a “knock” on them. For the record, I feel that these same councilors, who voted "no" the other night, should have all voted "yes" back in July. After all, if we're going to finally get on with growing our commercial tax base, we need to make it easier to do business in Peabody.


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