Dunkin’ on Mount Tom rests with city planners

  • Lori Tisdell leads a group with the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club out of the parking lot where a Dunkin’ Donuts and take-out deli have been proposed. The property is owned by the Log Cabin. The building in the distance is the former Mt. Joe to Go coffee drive-thru.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A group with the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club sets out for a hike from the parking lot where a Dunkin’ Donuts and take-out deli have been proposed. The property is owned by the Log Cabin. The building in the distance is the former Mt. Joe to Go coffee drive-thru. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Plans for a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and dine-in facility at 500 Easthampton Rd. in Holyoke, put forward by Salmar Realty’s Peter Martins of Wilbraham, show how cars will line up at the building’s drive-thru if it is approved. HOLYOKE PLANNING DEPARTMENT

  • Plans for a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and dine-in facility at 500 Easthampton Rd. in Holyoke, put forward by Salmar Realty’s Peter Martins of Wilbraham, show how cars will turn right into the property if the project is approved. HOLYOKE PLANNING DEPARTMENT

  • Plans for a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and dine-in facility at 500 Easthampton Rd. in Holyoke, put forward by Salmar Realty’s Peter Martins of Wilbraham, show how cars will turn left into the property if the project is approved. HOLYOKE PLANNING DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2021 5:52:11 PM

HOLYOKE — The city’s Planning Board will soon decide on a proposal to place a Dunkin’ Donuts on top of Mount Tom on the property of the Log Cabin.

The proposed drive-thru and dine-in facility at 500 Easthampton Road, also known as Route 141, also will contain a Delaney’s Market takeout deli. The development has been proposed by Salmar Realty’s Peter Martins of Wilbraham, who owns some 50 Dunkin’ franchises. The company would be leasing the land from the Log Cabin and constructing a new building where the former Mt. Joe to Go coffee drive-thru is located.

The project applicants have been in front of the city’s Planning Board for nine public hearings since December, and on Tuesday the board closed the public hearing for the project’s site plan review. The board must now issue a notice of decision within 60 days to determine whether the project has met city ordinances and safety standards.

“One of the major reasons why it has taken a long time to get through this is the traffic concerns,” Aaron Vega, the city’s director of planning and economic development, said in an interview Wednesday.

The project arrived at the Planning Board after receiving a special permit for its drive-thru from the City Council. Salmar Realty originally received that special permit in 2018, but after it expired the firm came back in front of the City Council earlier this year when the council again approved the special permit.

Traffic concerns have been raised throughout the process by city councilors, planning officials and the general public. The project’s plans make room for a 12-car queue to line up around the building to get to the drive-thru window.

Vega said that after a variety of traffic studies and proposals, the parties brought up the idea of a deceleration lane for those traveling south toward Holyoke on Route 141 and wanting to turn right into the property. However, when the applicants went to the state to present their plan, Vega said the state decided what was needed was a left turn lane for northbound travelers turning into the parking lot.

Currently, the project plans feature a left-turn lane. At Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, the board, Martins and his project manager from R. Levesque Associates, Jessica Allan, discussed the possibility of having an independent firm conduct a 12-month “look back” after the business opens to determine whether a right-turn deceleration lane is also needed. Planning Board members discussed how that one-year review, which Martins would pay for, might be conducted.

Vega said that if the project is approved, and the review later determines a deceleration lane is needed, that would require the Log Cabin to give up some of its land to make space for the lane.

Allan and Martins both sought to assure the Planning Board that if there are any traffic problems that come up, Martins will take action immediately to address them.

“He understands if the site is jammed up, if it looks unsafe, people are going to drive by,” Allan said. “He’s an expert at this, he owns 50 stores, he knows how to run an operation, he knows how to keep it efficient.”

There has been public opposition to the project during Planning Board meetings. One of the people to speak out against the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts was city resident Paola Ferrario, who is currently running for an at-large seat on the City Council.

Ferrario said she hikes Mount Tom almost daily and has a concern about the restaurant’s impact on the environment.

“One of the things I noticed during the pandemic is a Dunkin’ Donuts pollution problem that has started already,” she said, referring to the litter she witnessed on the mountain. She said Dunkin’ Donuts “isn’t a very green business,” because of non-biodegradable materials in its packaging. 

Others have expressed worries about traffic backing up onto the road, causing danger to those coming up over the mountain with limited visibility ahead. Martins has offered assurances his company will handle any problems that arise. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Martins said he more than anyone does not want an unsafe visit.

“We need people to come in every day,” he said.

Asked about the controversy, Vega said that the planning staff and board members don’t go out and court development projects.

“This is what we were given, it’s not that Holyoke went out and tried to make this happen,” Vega said. “This was a tricky project — busy interaction, drive-thru approved by the City Council for this project, and we worked diligently to get this to be a viable and safe project.”

Whether the project is viable and safe in its present form will now be a decision for the Planning Board to make. Vega said Planning Board members have to put aside personal opinions and follow their charge as officials to determine whether any project meets standards.

On the mountain Thursday, a group with the Pioneer Valley Hiking Club pulled into the parking lot where the Dunkin’ Donuts would be located. The group, which often comes up to hike the trails on Mount Tom, expressed skepticism about the project.

“I like Dunkin’ Donuts, but not here,” one hiker, Peggy Tibbitt, said. “It won’t fit in,” said another, Sheryl Stevens.

Planning Board Chairman John Kelley said the board is unlikely to deliberate on the project at its next meeting on July 27, given the large amount of work already on its agenda. The Planning Board meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

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


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