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by Rich Hewitt
There will be a Dunkin’ Donuts in Blue Hill.
After a two-hour public hearing on Monday, the Blue Hill Planning Board unanimously approved a permit for the 4,000 square-foot commercial development on South Street that will house the donut shop and two other retail businesses. In its vote, the board noted that the applicants, Chuck and Belinda Lawrence, had “very adequately” met the criteria set by the site plan review ordinance.
The public hearing drew a crowd estimated at more than 70 people, many of whom raised concerns about the proposal.
Some of the issues raised, such as lighting, parking, traffic safety and run-off, the board had targeted in earlier reviews, while others seemed to grow from an opposition to the idea of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Blue Hill.
One man asked how much the board could take into consideration the preservation of the “idyllic” nature of the town and protect it from a “perpetuation of a corporate onslaught.”
“We haven’t been given that authority,” said member Sue Walsh. “There’s no zoning, few ordinances. We have very few tools to work with. I personally would like to have more of those tools.”
Questions about the process gave board members the opportunity to lobby for stronger town ordinances and a new comprehensive plan. And several people expressed an interest in changing ordinances to give them more teeth to deal with commercial developments.
Bob Marville, who sold the property to the Lawrences, renewed his warning of impending commercialization on South Street, adding that the list of national business waiting for the chance would keep people up at night. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet, he said, is because he owns several of the prime properties in the area. Marville also renewed his call for a moratorium on development to allow the planning board to review and strengthen town ordinances.
Not all those attending the session were opposed to the project. Some welcomed the development, and some offered support to the Lawrences.
“I think this is a good thing that will benefit the town,” said Don Allen. “It will bring new taxes and jobs to the community and it has my full support.”
Judy Roundtree said although she was not a big donut eater, she came as a way to say thank you to Chuck and Belinda for all that they had done in town and for being a good neighbor.
“There’s a time and place to be a good neighbor and say ‘thank you,’” she said.
Traffic, noise and lights
Residents did raise questions about the proposed development itself and traffic concerns were near the top of the list.
Alina Watt, an engineer with Hedefine Engineering, who developed the plan for the site, explained that the Maine Department of Transportation had placed requirements on the development to ensure smooth traffic movement and safety, such as paving the shoulders on either side of South Street along the length of the development site. That will provide 11-foot-wide travel lanes and six-foot paved shoulders.
Those road improvements will tie into the work to install a roundabout at the intersection of Tenney Hill and South Street, which will slow traffic and make the area safer, said traffic engineer John Theriault, with James Sewell Co. Traffic patterns won’t change, he said, and any delays in exiting the parking lots would be minimal.
There won’t be the standard pink and purple corporate Dunkin’ Donuts sign, which one woman said would have an adverse effect on the natural beauty of Blue Hill, one of the criteria in the ordinance. The proposed sign for the development is a maroon and gold sign, which Lawrence said fits in better in Blue Hill.
Noise and lighting were also of concern. Corrinne Soucie said there already was significant lighting at TradeWinds, adding that people living near the supermarket could hardly see the stars.
All of the lighting proposed for the project meets Dark Skies standards and is designed to minimize any spread of the light beyond the property lines.
Noise also was a concern. Some related experiences in other towns where noise from speakers could be heard, especially in the evenings. Elsie Sealander said her experience had been that a drive-thru created a noise problem.
“If staff kept the customers waiting, they would blow their horns,” she said. And the speakers from the drive-thru also could be heard repeatedly blaring “welcome to Burger King.”
Lawrence’s development team noted that new, digital technology had improved speaker systems, which also have a “night button” to reduce speaker noise.
Lawrence added that in all of his projects, he has worked with residents to handle issues that arise.
“If we get the permit, it’s not just ‘it is what it is,’” he said. “We want to make it right. We’ll do anything we can to handle any situation that comes up. I’m committed to that.”
The board rejected a request from a non-resident to present a petition opposing the project, but resident Rick Traub said he had been asked to offer it to the board. He said the petition included 250 signatures. The board did not accept the petition from Traub. Chairman Peter d’Entremont had indicated earlier that any petitions would need to go to the selectmen.
With the permit now in hand, Lawrence said he plans to move ahead quickly to hire a local contractor who will construct the development, anticipating that it would be late June to mid-July before the building would be ready for occupancy.