Sneaking in a Drive-Thru

This is when blogs become local and universal — when we can all relate to the experience of how decisions can be made and neighborhoods changed without most people being aware of what is going on. Here in Cranston, we have learned that a Dunkin’ Donuts Drive-Thru is about to be put at the top of our street. Currently it is a walk-in Dunkin-Donuts and convenience store with an 8-pump gas station.

I received an email from our Ward 2 Councilperson, Emilio Navarro, informing me that, despite a prior citizen opposition movement and a traffic engineer who concluded that this was an unsafe location for a drive-thru, the drive-thru has been approved by our local government. Now it is in the hands of citizens to appeal within 20 days. From Emilio:

I would like to pass along some important information that you can use to post on your blog so that the residents of the Eden Park and Auburn sections of Ward 2 that read your blog could be aware of.

I found out yesterday 11/27/07 through the Building officials office, while looking into some traffic concerns on the corner of Pontiac and Laurens St., that a building permit has been issued to complete and operate a drive thru at the Dunkin Donuts location on corner, 480 Pontiac Ave.

My understanding was that there were many residents in opposition to a drive-thru when it went for approval before the Zoning Board of Review (ZBR). The ZBR committee approved the coffee shop and gas pumps but left the decision of the drive-thru up to the City’s Traffic Safety Engineer who determined on 12/12/05 that a drive-thru operation would be unacceptable citing safety concerns. But since then, the owners have again filed for a building permit and have submitted modified plans to the City’s Traffic Safety Engineer who has now deemed the plans acceptable on July 31, 2007. Based on the decision from the Traffic Safety Engineer, and since this was the only stipulation needed, as per the ZBR, the building inspections office granted the permit for the drive-thru on August 6, 2007.

My main concern with this process, although legal, is that since the approval only rested with that of the Traffic Safety Engineer, there was no mechanism in place to notify the abutting neighbors. The only time they would have known about this permit would have been once they realized the drive- thru became operational and then they would be able to take action and file an appeal on the permit. My feeling is that an attempt to appeal on the drive-thru once completed and operational, might be a futile attempt to try to get the ZBR to reverse the permit.

But now, given the fact that no work has been done up to this point, if the neighbors file and appeal, I feel the chances of an appeal to have the permit overturned are much greater now.

I find this process, though legal, somewhat flawed. Once the Traffic Safety Engineer denied the drive-thru all subsequent attempts should have made the applicants once again file for a variance and start the process again, in which case the residents in the area would have been notified of such of an attempt to install a drive-thru.

This is my reason for this communication because in light of my finding out about this permit that has been issued, it not too late to stop this project but an appeal has to be filed within 20days of this communication.

The following city ordinance gives the residents the right to file an appeal under ‘Title 17 Zoning’ which states the following:

17.116.040 Aggrieved parties.
An appeal to the zoning board of review from a decision of any other zoning enforcement agency or officer may be taken by an aggrieved party subject to the following:

A. When the appeal is taken by a party aggrieved from an affirmative action of the inspector of buildings such as the issuance of a building permit or certificate of occupancy, said appeal shall be filed within twenty (20) days of the date when the aggrieved party became aware or could reasonably be expected to have been aware of the action.

I know some people who are very concerned about this. It would make more sense if the laws were written so that the public needed to be notified of a variance which would allow something that was previously opposed by citizens and objected to for safety reasons. Not having this provision leaves a loophole in the law that’s as big as a drive-thru, and makes people feel anger and distrust for the Cranston officials who are supposed to protect our mutual interests, but do nothing to inform us of possibly detrimental changes to our environment.

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9 thoughts on “Sneaking in a Drive-Thru

  1. This is terrible. It’s a smaller version of the concrete plant. People didn’t want it, but “no” depends on whom you ask–or whom you soften up?

  2. let me see…. pontiac ave is already a traffic mess morning, noon and night…. so our leaders, the ubiquitous Nappy up front and in prime, makes another movement to make a quiet middle income neighborhood into an overloaded freeway with gravel trucks up and down the highway we once called pontiac ave… and a drive thru donut shop, so pontiac ave will appear as busy as NYC on weekends when there are families at home, and children and their animals all around. so now we will have two donut shops in spitting range, and we can call to outside areas to come and take what was a quiet neighborhood and turn it into a full size BJ’s type fiasco… what we need now is a roller coaster, and some ferris wheels to finalize the deals. now why does this not suit the other side of cranston? why that is where his honor, the soon to be X-mayor, lives in his quiet neighborhood… cant make that area noisy…. the mayor might be sleeping late, dream of how he can ruin the lives of people less well off than him. and if he does it properly, he can get enough income from the taxes so he wont need to take away from the quiet neighborhood he lives in. and if he drives enough of garden city away, he can connect pontiac and reservoir with a string of strip malls, full with beauty salons and bakeries. just as long as it isnt on his side of the city.

    we ought to get a plaque for the mayors desk which reads THE SCHMUCK STOPS HERE

  3. I love it! Someone in that area must have really pissed the Mayor off – really shameful this is being allowed. But, from what Emilio wrote there is a short window to appeal and contact him. He’s looking to hear from folks.

  4. GCP:

    Well, I see you haven’t tired of creating doomsday scenarios and baseless smears against Napolitano. Not that any of it is true, of course — you just like to see your own writing and push the limits of how outlandish you can make your statements.

    Can you tell me, perchance, where the second donut shop is “in spitting range” from the corner of Laurens Avenue? The Krispy Kreme further down Pontiac is vacant — or haven’t you noticed? Maybe you mean the Dunkin’ at Reservoir and Park? That’s a heck of a spitting range — although you have quite a lot of spit, so maybe you can reach it. Or maybe you mean the two diners along Rolfe Street. I wouldn’t call them “donut shops” unless I wanted to insult the owners (not that you mind insulting people).

    Seems to me you’re as out of touch with that neighborhood as you accuse the Mayor of being.

    And I know it won’t stop your ranting, but it took 4 years for Laffey to get as far as a hole dug behind Park Cinema; why should it be Nap’s fault that the thing isn’t complete yet, after another 11 months? Oh, I know: it’s because he’s the Mayor now — and if he’s not doing exactly what you say, he’s corrupt.

    Knock down churches? Put in a Wal-Mart? Drive Garden City away? You’re entertaining, I’ll give you that. Sort of like how Jerry Lewis was entertaining 40 years ago — totally senseless.

    Tell you what: Go peddle your gloom and doom to Allen Fung. He’s going to need talking points next year — and he’s not in enough of a hole yet. With you helping him, he just might take 32% of the vote instead of 35%.

  5. Kiersten:

    Sorry for straying OT. A drive-thru at that location would be a disaster, particularly after it was denied originally.

    Now, I don’t share GCP’s exact level of disdain for Mayor Napolitano, but I have seen a pattern of less-than-brilliant planning from City Hall. This is another unfortunate example.

  6. this is a real problem – the permit is not valid due to the fact that ZBR did not approve two years ago. The Traffic Engineer did approve the new plans, BUT ZBR must review with public hearings. This mayor does not have a clue as to what his department heads are doing. If this is challenged – get to the papers, and other media. It must be reversed. The neighbors must also understand though that just traffic complaints without solid arguments, evidence and even experts won’t win it.

  7. I agree with Rachel. I suggested this earlier today to some elected officials. Rachel, perhaps you can directly call the Mayor’s office and suggest this…as I’m sure I am on the coal list with the Mayor.

  8. Mike, being on the coal list means you’re not happy with my comments. I stand behind them. Just pull the Permit, make them take their eracta set off and do an investigation. Simple. Obviously you or someone (as you stated is forwarding to you) is bothered by the statement of “Coal”.

    I would have rather received a call saying you were bothered by my stronger words….putting in a bizzare nomination, not doing an investigation, not sitting at the table to say anything of meaning.

    I won’t be happy paying out for anything other than a settlement on a storage property which is what this was before the fradulent Permit was winked winked given away.

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