AUGUSTA — The Planning Board tonight unanimously rejected a proposal to change the zoning on a Davenport Street lot to make way for a proposed Dunkin Donuts franchise, after residents and city officials testified that traffic in the area would be less safe, and more congested, than it is now.

A Massachusetts developer sought to rezone the parcel, on the city’s east side, to allow a Dunkin Donuts to be built on Stone Street. That developer also wants to convert a former credit union, at 22 Western Ave., into a Dunkin Donuts restaurant.

Planners tabled discussion of the Western Avenue development tonight, because debate on the Davenport Street issue ran late. It will be taken up at the board’s Aug. 27 meeting.

The proposed Dunkin’ Donuts at 22 Western Ave. would not require a zoning change, but does require Planning Board approval as a major development under city rules.

The Davenport Street proposal was lambasted by residents at the meeting, attended by more than 50 people, almost all of whom stood up when asked to stand if they came to the meeting to speak against the proposal.

“The applicant states that the rezoning is consistent with the (Comprehensive Plan) because it will add to the pedestrian circulation of the area to save residents from having to drive to Dunkin Donuts in other parts of the city, and will thus make it easier for me and my neighbors to get our morning coffee,” said Davenport Street resident Powers McGuire. “First, thank you for thinking of me, but gouging a hole in our neighborhood with attendant light and noise pollution and increased danger from traffic, not to mention losses in value of our property, so that an out-of-town business can earn extra profits, is not to my mind a very good trade.”

City Engineer Lionel Cayer said he doesn’t see how the additional traffic the business would bring could be mitigated safely in the already congested Stone Street area, where, he noted, lines of traffic back up waiting for the traffic light at the intersection with Eastern Avenue.

Several residents said traffic already cuts through their residential neighborhood and they fear a Dunkin Donuts would increase that trend.

Cafua Management Co., the Massachusetts-based company looking to open the new franchise locations, proposes to demolish a former auto repair shop at 89 Stone St. and a home at 1 Davenport St. and combine the two lots for the proposed new Dunkin’ Donuts.

Scott Braley, of Bangor-based Plymouth Engineering, who said he was representing the applicant at the meeting, acknowledged the project faces significant, and legitimate, concerns about traffic. That same heavy traffic is a large part of what attracts the developer to the site. But he said careful engineering could allow the project to be built and operate safely.

He said other businesses on Stone Street already go back as far, or further, into the residential neighborhood as the Dunkin’ Donuts would.

“I’m not going to say traffic is not an issue,” Braley said. “Traffic is always an issue with Dunkin Donuts, no matter where we are. I’m saying, with proper engineering, it could be done without detriment to the public. I don’t think we, as an applicant, can be held responsible what happens now on Crooker Street and Davenport Street.”

Matt Nazar, development director for the city, said the Stone Street location has been controversial because, in part, it would straddle residential and business zones.

The city received two petitions, circulated by Thomas Palmer, of Davenport Street, and Carol Tuttle, of Fairview Avenue, each signed by 24 households in the neighborhood around Davenport Street, expressing concerns about the increased traffic and associated noise and congestion that could come with a new Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Davenport lot is in the Low Density Residential District, where the restaurant would not be allowed. The developer proposed changing the lot to the Local Business District classification.

Braley said a Dunkin Donuts with a drive through could not be built on just the Stone Street lot; the Davenport Street lot is needed to create enough room.

There are five Dunkin Donuts franchises in Augusta. Several residents said the city doesn’t need any more.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]