Historic Board OKs Dunkin’ Design
The Cold Spring Historic District Review Board has unanimously approved the design for a Dunkin’ Donuts to be located at the current Elmesco Citgo station on the west side of Chestnut Street (Route 9D) near Main Street.
Elmesco garage owner Kenny Elmes—who, after a series of recent tragedies that, among other things, rendered him unable to work—needed to hear some good news after the Planning Board all but crushed his hopes of opening a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in what is currently his filling station and garage.
Chair Al Zgolinski presided over last week’s meeting, which was the continuation of a previous public hearing.
Attendance was sparse, but all the “usual suspects” came out, including Village Board liaison Matt Francisco, Special Board member Stephanie Hawkins, and citizens Susan Peehl and Judith Rose.
The board reviewed changes that they suggested Elmes make at an earlier meeting. Elmes’s architect Cynthia Falls answered all questions. She added a new site feature, a wood fence around the rear perimeter of the property that would eliminate light shining from the site, and also added landscaping, which she said was within Dunkin’ Donuts’ landscaping standards.
After all the changes met with board satisfaction, Zgolinski opened the floor to public comments and paused the meeting for five minutes so anyone who wanted to view the revised plans could do so.
When the hearing reconvened, neighbor and Dunkin’ Donuts opponent Judith Rose spoke first, with iPad in hand, and stated, “I had nothing to do earlier in the meeting,” so she wrote down about five paragraphs, and asked if the board would like her to email it over to them. Zgolinski, looking puzzled, said, “Why don’t you just read it?” Rose replied, “There is no question I am going to read it,” and proceeded to read her comments, almost as if she were making a formal presentation of her own.
“As part of planning the future of Cold Spring there have been 28 public input meetings in the past year—in almost all these meetings the importance of preserving the village character [has been emphasized].” She went on to state that residents had been discussing the importance of walkability in the village and also had “talked about Cold Spring’s peacefulness and unique character.” She noted that as a result the Comprehensive Plan and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Strategy “were approved last year; they are next going to be made into zoning law.” Continuing, she said, “These documents represent the voices, the many, many voices of the Village residents.”
She quoted the waterfront strategy and stated that it said, “no drive-through establishments would be allowed.” Although the strategy is still being reviewed by the Village Board and has not yet been approved, that fact did not seem to faze Rose. “They may not be law yet but they are our voices and opinions.” Rose became accusatory when she said, referring to the fact that the board likes the design that was proposed, “I contend you have lost the big picture.”
Rose then began to refer to herself in the third party: “Donut lovers and Judith Rose detractors have protested loudly that myself and my neighbors should move away. We will not.” She then told the board that they needed to be the defender of Cold Spring’s residents and its planning documents, “which say no drive-throughs. I urge you not to approve this project.”
Neighbor Karen Parks stated that Dunkin’ Donuts was looking into an alternate solution for a lighted menu board: “I think you should hold them to it…”
Zgolinski gave fair warning that he was closing public comments, “Going once, going twice,” and it was then that Susan Peehl—recently in the news for vigorously opposing the process by which a neighbor of hers replaced a backyard shed— spoke up: “This sounds like a heartbreaking issue for many people, this whole issue, I wouldn’t know where to go with it, but I just say I do appreciate that it’s been going through and gone through all the proper channels, and the public has had a say all along.”
Then Review Board member Carolyn Bachan issued swift retort to Rose’s accusations: “I’m going to say something very unpopular. I think that there are only two people in this room who are native Cold Springers and to bring out the idea that something may be inappropriate because either the building owner or the franchisee is not local, smacks of some sort of residents’ apartheid and I find that offensive.”
Review Board member Kathleen Foley was very conciliatory in her remarks, as she addressed Rose and said, in part, “I just want to say, I hear you and I hear the concerns you are raising. … I have to be honest and I have been honest with Kenny personally on the street. I don’t love that a Dunkin’ Donuts is coming, I don’t love that a drive-through is potentially coming, but I feel that this applicant has worked very hard to work with this board to meet design concerns and also to address the concerns of the public… I feel this board has done its job and done it really well.”
Board member Marie Early, who is also a member of the Special Board that helped write the Comprehensive Plan and the LWRS, felt the question of drive-throughs was not part of her responsibility on the Historic Board. At one point Rose abruptly interrupted her, “You are not going to defend the planning project you worked on for five years? It’s sad.” Board member Peter Downey clarified, “It’s not law yet so you can’t enforce something that’s not law yet.”
Fran Elmes was visibly moved to tears as it looked that the tide was turning in their favor.
Zgolinski said he felt the character on Main Street is not the character you have on Chestnut Street: “I don’t think it is of a benefit to the district to try and make Chestnut Street look like Main Street. It’s an entirely different context.”
Zgolinski then made his thoughts known over the controversial issue of drivethroughs in the village: “I can’t see how deleting the drive-through makes any difference to the movement of cars on and off the site because if there is no drivethrough then they are going to pull into a parking space and then they are going to drive a car out, so how is that going to be any different as far as a pedestrian walking?”
There was some confusion over the menu-board and it was agreed that Elmes and Falls would come up with an alternate solution and they would come back to the board again. All agreed that it should be a separate issue.
In the end the board was polled and all members voted in favor of the design.