Fair Haven zoners toss Dunkin’ application to Planning Board

Despite hearing opposition from residents, members of the Fair Haven Zoning Board of Adjustment have determined that an application that proposes the opening of a Dunkin’ store should be heard by the borough’s Planning Board.

Meanwhile, residents have said an application for the eatery has left them perplexed because fast food establishments are prohibited in the borough.

Following more than four hours of discussion on May 2, members of the zoning board denied a request from two residents to hear the application. Board members determined the Dunkin’ restaurant, formerly know as Dunkin’ Donuts, is a permitted use in the B-1 commercial zone at 598 River Road, near an Acme supermarket.

Residents Gail O’Reilly and Andrew Reger hired attorneys to challenge the application’s placement before the zoning board. O’Reilly was represented by attorney Michael J. Convery and Reger was represented by attorney Ron Gasiorowski.

O’Reilly and Reger were appealing a determination that had been made by Fair Haven’s administrative officer in 2018. The administrative officer determined the Dunkin’application is a permitted use and should be heard by the Planning Board, according to a legal notice.

Convery and Gasiorowski argued that the proposed Dunkin’ is not a permitted use and posed questions to planner Nicholas Graviano, who represents the applicant, Fair Haven Retail, LLC and/or Dominic Sequeira.

Graviano said the proposed Dunkin’, which will not have a drive-up window, is classified as a Category 2 restaurant. A Category 2 restaurant is permitted in that zone, he said.

Next, Convery and Gasiorowski questioned planner Michael Simpson, who represents O’Reilly and Reger. Simpson made the argument that the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts is not permitted in the zone.

Simpson testified that “vehicular use” is a major component in the application. He said, “Fair Haven is very concerned about vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles, and the interactivity between vehicles and businesses.

“(The Institute of Transportation Engineers) actually created a special category that addresses coffee-donut shops,” Simpson said, explaining that those shops have higher “traffic generation issues than fast food (restaurants).”

Fair Haven Retail, LLC and/or Dominic Sequeira previously filed a zoning permit application seeking to operate a Dunkin’ in the space that was previously occupied by a stationary store.

That application was denied by the borough’s zoning officer on June 11, 2018. In the denial letter, the zoning officer determined the applicant proposed a new use of a restaurant – Dunkin’  – in the corner tenant space of the ACME shopping center which was previously occupied by Lairds Stationary and Printing, according to a legal notice.

During the zoning board meeting, residents expressed concern over the possible opening of a Dunkin’. They said if the store opens, it would generate additional vehicles on local streets, jeopardize the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, and change the borough’s small-town charm.

Tracy Cole, who has lived in Fair Haven for four years, said, “It’s safe to say there is no fast food in Fair Haven. There is certainly nothing like a Dunkin’  … which has a vehicular trip count of 204 car trips per hour at peak hour.

” … The thing that makes this (application) unsettling is the traffic. It’s the number of times (motorists) will be crossing the pedestrian corridor. The rules in the master plan are all about installing and investing in new bike paths … and pedestrian safety,” Cole said. “The character of the business district would be affected by a fast food restaurant.”

No date has been announced for when the application may come before the Planning Board.

On April 29, some residents attended the Borough Council meeting to discuss the proposed Dunkin’. Some residents claimed information is vague or missing from prior zoning ordinances that outline what types of fast food establishments are prohibited in town.