UPDATE: According to one of our commenters who received an email from Cindy Fogarty, attorney for the neighbors opposing the drive-thru, at around midnight the zoning board upheld the neighbors’ appeal and revoked the building permit. The Projo apparently did not have the full story.
It sounds like the neighbors of the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru at 480 Pontiac Ave in Cranston are at least having their say. Kudos to Emilio Navarro for creating legislation which will make it harder for this kind of lack of community input to occur again. From the Projo:
City Council member Emilio L. Navarro, who represents the area, stumbled across the permit in November while looking into another concern over traffic leaving the property.
And the neighbors who had fought the drive-through objected, arguing that the city should not have approved a controversial project without consulting them.
Administration officials said they understood the neighborsâ€™ concerns.
But they maintained that the city had pursued all the proper procedures: approval of the drive-through was contingent on the traffic engineerâ€™s approval and the engineer had signed off on the proposal, albeit two years after an initial denial.
Navarro agreed that no laws were broken, but said the system was broken if an unelected official could approve such a controversial project without neighborhood input.
So he sponsored an ordinance, approved by the City Council in February, that requires the traffic engineer to sign off on drive-through proposals before the zoning board takes them up â€“â€“ ensuring that the final decision is made in public, before a panel that takes testimony from residents.
The ordinance also made all drive-though proposals subject to an administrative review designed to ensure that they are in line with city zoning.
But that ordinance did not apply, retroactively, to the Dunkinâ€™ Donuts case â€“â€“ leading to last nightâ€™s meeting.
Neighbor Susan Pacheco appealed the issuance of the building permit for the drive-through.
Her lawyer, Cynthia M. Fogarty, a former City Council member, argued last night that the traffic engineer â€“â€“ under the old law â€“â€“ had one chance to approve or deny the drive-through.
Once Ferguson denied it, in 2005, he could not revisit the matter, she suggested.
John DiBona, a lawyer for DiFanti, the owner of the Dunkinâ€™ Donuts, argued that there was no such limitation on the traffic engineerâ€™s powers.
But Ponder, the zoning board member, insisted that DiFanti should have come back before the board with a revised drive-through proposal, rather than present it to the traffic engineer for approval.
I have to admit that part of me would like the convenience of a drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts so close by. But I’m also one of the neighbors who will be impacted by the cars and traffic issues that this may cause. And the neighbors who are right next to the Dunkin’ Donuts will also have to deal with increased noise and car fumes from idling cars sitting in line.
The fundamental issue is one of homeowner’s rights versus business owner’s rights. Curtis Ponder is correct in that this should not have been allowed to happen without neighbors being involved in the decision-making via the zoning board.