AUGUSTA — An unpopular proposal to open a Dunkin’ Donuts in an east side neighborhood found no supporters on the City Council Thursday night, effectively ending the developer’s attempt to rezone a residential lot for the business.
A majority of the roughly 30 members of the public in attendance clapped and thanked the councilors for not sponsoring the proposal following the council’s decision.
The developer, Cafua Management Co., based in Massachusetts, wanted to change the zoning of 1 Davenport St. from low-density residential to a conditional local business zoning district to build a Dunkin’ Donuts with a drive-thru window. It called for combining 89 Stone St. and the Davenport Street property into a single lot and demolishing the buildings on both lots.
The Planning Board unanimously rejected the proposal in August after strong opposition from residents of the affected neighborhood who said the proposed doughnut and coffee shop would bring additional traffic to an already heavily traveled and congested area.
Cafua Management’s representative, Scott Braley of Plymouth Engineering, argued that the proposal fit with the comprehensive plan — a notion rejected by the Planning Board — and that the rezoning wouldn’t encroach on the neighborhood.
Neighbors of the site told Planning Board members in August that they were worried a busy restaurant with a drive-thru lane would also increase what they said is a trend of motorists looking to avoid long lines at the Stone Street and Eastern Avenue traffic lights by taking a shortcut through their neighborhood’s streets.
Mayor William Stokes, who lives in the neighborhood on Fairview Avenue, said he isn’t opposed to a business moving into the Stone Street site on the corner of Davenport Street, a former Citgo auto repair garage, but he doesn’t view opening a Dunkin’ Donuts as legitimate reason to rezone a residential property.
“I think all of us that live in the area would like to see an appropriate use for those structure, but the notion that this is simply an edge zone doesn’t fly with me because all you did was move edge,” Stokes said.
He said it’s a slippery slope to rezone a residential property to commercial simply because it’s on the border of two zones.
Councilor-at-large David Rollins, one of four councilors who opposed the proposal, said he understands why residents don’t want a business moving into a property zoned for residential use. He echoed Stokes’ sentiment, saying it could lead to other businesses looking to push the commercial zone farther into a residential neighborhood.
“The city of Augusta doesn’t do this very often,” Rollins said. “We don’t take any pleasure in saying no to a commercial development.”
Since no councilors were willing to sponsor the proposal, it can’t move forward. Councilors encouraged the developer to look at other areas in Augusta for a potential new Dunkin’ Donuts.
There are already five Dunkin’ Donuts in Augusta. In late August, planners approved a Cafua Management proposal to build a Dunkin’ Donuts at 22 Western Ave., on the corner of Melville Street, which will replace a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby on Sewall Street.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663