Dunkin’ won’t be runnin’ on Mount Tom: Holyoke Planning Board rejects plan to build drive-thru 

  • Lori Tisdell leads a group with the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club out of the parking lot owned by the Log Cabin on  Route 141 in Holyoke last month. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2021 6:34:04 PM

HOLYOKE — In a close decision, the city’s Planning Board has rejected a plan to build a Dunkin’ Donuts on Mount Tom on the property of the Log Cabin.

With three members voting in favor and two against, the board failed Tuesday to muster the four votes necessary to approve the drive-thru facility at 500 Easthampton Road, also known as Route 141. Traffic concerns were the main driver of the no votes.

Salmar Realty’s Peter Martins, of Wilbraham, was the developer behind the project, which would have allowed his company to rent land from the Log Cabin and build a new building at the site of the former Mt. Joe to Go coffee drive-thru.

The decision follows nine public hearings on the site plan, as well as requests for several special permits to make the project possible. Efforts to reach Martins on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Throughout that process, city officials and members of the public had raised concerns about traffic at the site, which would have featured space for 12 cars to queue around the building and a left-turn lane for those traveling north toward Easthampton. At the final public hearing last month, Martins agreed to have an independent firm conduct a 12-month “look back” after the business opens to determine whether a right-turn deceleration lane was also needed.

Traffic concerns, and whether the project successfully mitigated those issues, were also raised by Planning Board members during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have tried really hard, and I really appreciate the efforts of the applicants to make this site work,” Vice Chairwoman Mimi Panitch said in opening the discussion. “I don’t believe it does, if we look at the realistic behavior of drivers, rather than the theoretical if everyone follows the rules all the time.”

Panitch said the applicant worked hard on the project. But traffic mitigation measures included in the project create problems of their own, she added.

Planning Board member Rosanna Lopez agreed that the project presented traffic and parking problems.

“To me it scares me — it makes me very nervous, that project,” Lopez said.

The board’s three other members — Kate Kruckemeyer, Gurninder Dhaliwal and John Kelley — voted in favor of the project.

Dhaliwal said the applicant did hard work to provide enough information to convince him to vote for the plan. Kruckemeyer said she felt comfortable voting for the project because of all of the conditions the board had spoken about attaching to any approval.

Kelley, the board’s chairman, said questions about parking and dangerous driving are law enforcement questions, not issues to be blamed on business owners.

“I really feel they’ve done a very commendable job as far as mitigating, and their willingness to continue to work with the city going forward,” he said.

The Planning Board will now be issuing a written decision to Salmar Realty, which owns some 50 Dunkin’ franchises, explaining its reasons for rejecting the site plan.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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