James Scalise presented the plans to the Community Development Board on Tuesday. Cafua will now go in front of the City Council to seek approval.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board will not support a proposed Dunkin' Donuts drive-through on Fenn Street.
Cafua Management Co. was denied a positive recommendation from the board on Tuesday after presenting a site plan.
Engineer James Scalise of SK Design presented the plans to tear down the former Plunkett School and replace it with a Dunkin' Donuts franchise and retail space.
However, board members were concerned with traffic and how a drive-through would fit into the city's master plan, which calls for a "walkable" downtown and preservation of historic buildings.
The vote was 3-1 in favor of providing no recommendation — member Alf Barbalunga abstained and member David Hathaway recused himself prior to the discussion.
"I think there is nothing I'd like to see less than a drive-through at that corner," said board member Judith Katz, who was the lone vote against having "no recommendation" because she instead wanted to recommend with strict conditions.
Cafua will now have to go in front of the City Council in hopes to get approval for a special permit. The council can vote in favor of giving the company the special permit without a positive recommendation from the Community Development Board.
Traffic was the biggest concern, but Scalise said two studies and an analysis dating since April 2012 have shown there would be little impact. The drive-through would allow for a backup of 13 vehicles on the property — well above the typical six cars, he said. The business expects to bring a peak of 129 more cars to the area each day.
Other Dunkin' Donuts in the city have backups of 10 cars at their max, Scalise said, and being a new store, waiting times for orders would be decreased thus moving cars in and out quicker.
"We believe this project will lead to an improvement of traffic conditions," he told the board, citing that a loading dock that currently forces tractor-trailers to poke out onto Fenn Street would be eliminated and that drivers will be able to see the intersection and traffic lights better.
The proposed project would replace the already operating First Street Dunkin' Donuts, which had a long history of causing traffic complaints. That situation cannot be considered by the board when rendering a decision on this proposal though.
While picking through the study, board members felt that a drive-through on Fenn would cause too much congestion at an already busy intersection.
Board member Floriana Fitzgerald pointed to wait times of just short of 30 seconds to take a left in some occasions and worried that drivers would get impatient and thus cause delays.
"I am concerned about the real-life situation of an individual sitting in the car waiting to get out," she said, asking how long would it take for a driver to just drive out and force his or her way into the driving lane.
But Traffic Engineer Paul Furgal said the wait times are consistent with similar projects. Scalise added that both the Fire Department and city engineer have reviewed the plans and had no concerns. The plan would utilize existing curb cuts.
Other than traffic, Scalise said the plan improves water run off by creating more green space — thus reducing impervious surfaces — will feature lighting and sign work consistent with the landscape of the newly renovated Common, would tie water and wastewater into the city's infrastructure but with "significantly" less usage than the current building and would confine trash removal a fenced-in rear corner.
Greg Nolan, of Cafua, said the company has its own landscaping and snow removal contracts so the site would be well maintained.
Overall, the plan would "extend the use of the Common" because pedestrians would walk down to the retail shop and restaurant, the proponents said.
"It is a dead zone now," Scalise said.
Board member Sheila Irvin, however, noted that the city's master plan calls for a de-emphasis on "auto-centric" developments. "This is part of our downtown and our master plan calls for walkability and less vehicles," she said.
Attorney Thomas Hamel, representing Cafua, however, contended that the Fenn Street site is on a major thoroughfare and outside of the downtown "neighborhoods."
Additionally, attorney David Rich, also representing Cafua, said the board members shouldn't be considering the historic aspect of because that is handled by another committee. Board member Louis Costi responded that the city has lost so many historic building that they have, too.
The Historic Commission has twice delayed demolition permits citing the building's 103-year history.