Controversial Dunkin’ proposal back on Bristol agenda Thursday
Area residents - many of whom oppose building the new shop - will have their say after several delays
A controversial proposal to build a new, free-standing Dunkin’ Donuts in Gooding Plaza is back before the Bristol Zoning Board of Review Thursday, and residents finally get their say after hours of testimony from the proponents.
The plan to build the store in front of the existing location, between the Defiance Hose Company and BankNewport, is back before the board Thursday at 7 p.m. The proposal has been delayed several times as town officials and residents have sought further traffic studies, and Dunkin’ owner Christopher Prezeres’ attorneys have made lengthy presentations to the board. The latest, on Feb. 8, ended after four hours of testimony from a land use planner and a traffic engineer Mr. Prezeres has hired. The public — which has turned out in droves to the Zoning Board hearings — has yet to have its say on the matter.
Most of the roughly 100 people who turned out at the meetings oppose the plan they say will further exacerbate and already difficult traffic situation around the Hope Street - Gooding Avenue intersection. Residents have told of delays as long as 10 minutes to turn onto Hope Street, especially from the Fales Road neighborhood directly across the street from the proposed shop.
The Defiance Hose Company has also expressed concerns about traffic in the area, voting unanimously on Jan. 4 to oppose the donut shop’s construction.
“We have firsthand knowledge of how hard it is getting out of the station today, even with red lights and sirens,” William Van Voast, clerk of the company, wrote in a letter to the editor. “We ask you join along with us to prevent this action from taking place.”
Those planning to attend Thursday with that goal in mind will have the floor, Zoning Board Vice Chairman Bruce Kogan said when continuing the hearing on Feb. 8. Mr. Prezeres’ team has finished its presentation, and Thursday’s special hearing is dedicated to the public.
Mr. Prezeres, a Seekonk, Mass. resident, owns the existing Dunkin’ Donuts in Gooding Plaza, along with several others in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He wants the new location with the drive-thru to increase business, exactly what residents fear. While his intent is to increase customers by adding the convenience of a drive-thru, his team has insisted there will not be a significant increase to traffic in the area, which is routinely congested, particularly in the afternoon hours.
Traffic engineer Joseph Giordano conducted a traffic study on a Thursday morning in December 2015, estimating there were 109 car trips (55 in, 54 out) at Gooding Plaza between 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. Based on sales data from a similar Dunkin’ Donuts in Warren, the study anticipates the drive-thru would add 78 new trips, for a total of 187 trips (94 in, 93 out). Despite the increased trips, the Gordon Archibald engineer determined the impact on traffic would be minimal.
Many area residents have criticized the timing of Mr. Giordano's study, conducted in the winter instead of the busy summer tourist season when traffic on Bristol roads multiplies. Mr. Giordano said the time of year would not change the numbers, drawing loud jeers from residents in attendance in February.
The Zoning Board has scheduled the special hearing for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13 in Bristol Town Hall on Court Street.