AUGUSTA — Tim Jackson is a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, but the Fairview Avenue resident has no interest in his favorite coffee chain coming any closer to the neighborhood he’s called home for all of his 57 years.

“My father built the house I’m in now. We decided to live there because it’s a real neighborhood,” Jackson said while speaking against a proposal to rezone a Davenport Street lot to make way for a proposed new Dunkin’ Donuts store there. “It’s one of the few places in Augusta where you can still play ball in the streets. I could do that. My kids could do that, and now my grandson can do that today. That means a lot to me. There is no value to this Dunkin’ Donuts coming here. Personally, I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts fan, but I will drive that seven-tenths of a mile (to the closest existing Dunkin’ Donuts) to go get my coffee.”

The Augusta Planning Board, following testimony by Jackson and many fellow residents of a close-knit neighborhood tucked tightly against the congestion and commercialism of Stone Street and Eastern Avenue, voted unanimously Tuesday to reject a zoning change needed for the project to move forward.

Planners took just a couple of minutes to decide to reject the zoning change request, after they heard about two hours of testimony from residents who made it clear that Dunkin’ Donuts in their neighborhood is not their cup of tea.

Neighbors of the site said they worry that a busy restaurant with a drive-thru lane would bring even more traffic congestion and 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 short-cut through their neighborhood’s streets.

“This is going to fundamentally change the nature of this entire neighborhood,” said Matt Rideout, of Davenport Street. “I would not have purchased my house two years ago if there was a Dunkin’ Donuts there. This restaurant could easily go somewhere else, and we need to put an end to this before it goes any further.”

Cafua Management Co., the Massachusetts-based company looking to open the new franchise location, proposed 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. Doing so would require a zoning change on the Davenport lot, a move planners voted against recommending to the City Council.

The developer still could ask councilors to consider the change, according to City Development Director Matt Nazar, despite the negative recommendation by the Planning Board.

Scott Braley, of Plymouth Engineering, spoke on the developer’s behalf Tuesday. He agreed there is a lot of traffic in the area, saying that’s why the business wants to be there. He said the potential new business shouldn’t be blamed for existing traffic conditions or for motorists detouring through a neighborhood to avoid a traffic light.

“The site is so attractive because of the incoming traffic,” he said. “During the morning peak, when traffic is heaviest, we’re on the correct side of the road for the traffic we expect at this site. I understand the concerns about traffic; but I don’t think we, as an applicant, can be held responsible for what happens now on Crooker and Davenport streets.”

He said he thinks concerns about traffic could be addressed with careful engineering of the site.

A. Delaine Nye, a board member who lives on Fairview Avenue, in the same neighborhood, offered to recuse herself from discussing or voting on the issue; but other board members said she did not need to do so.

She said she didn’t see how the proposed restaurant’s entrance or exit could be located so it wouldn’t affect the safety of people trying to go to and from Davenport or Crooker streets.

City Engineer Lionel Cayer also said he “didn’t see any easy solutions here, just because of the traffic volumes.”

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

Neighborhood residents, including Mayor William Stokes, who lives on Fairview Avenue, said they aren’t opposed to a business moving into the 89 Stone St. site on the corner of Davenport Street, a former Citgo auto repair garage, just not a restaurant with a drive-thru lane, because of the high traffic volume they believe such a business would attract.

“The Stone Street property is zoned commercial, and I hope to see it used (by a business),” Stokes said. “But I’m adamantly opposed to Davenport Street. The idea we’d encroach into a residential neighborhood for a drive-thru restaurant with coffee and doughnuts strikes me as absurd.”

Cafua Management Co. also has filed an application with the Planning Board to convert a former credit union, at 22 Western Ave., into a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. If that is approved, the firm’s application material states, once the proposed Western Avenue Dunkin’ Donuts opens, an existing Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru nearby on Sewall Street would close.

However, the Planning Board tabled discussion of the proposed Western Avenue development Tuesday because debate on the Davenport Street issue ran late. It will be taken up at the board’s Aug. 27 meeting. That proposal would not require a zone change, just a site review by the board.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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