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 Cityâ€™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 Cityâ€™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.