Easthampton neighbors object to new Dunkin’ on East Street

  • AP

Staff Writer
Published: 7/24/2020 8:25:51 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A proposed Dunkin Donuts at 5 and 9 East St. in the city has generated opposition from a number of residents, some of whom showed up at a Tuesday evening Planning Board meeting where the project was on the agenda.

“We are a historical area here,” said Jane Kulis, speaking to the Gazette. “Dunkin’s is not historical.”

American Dream Realty of Westfield is seeking a special permit and a stormwater management permit for the construction of the restaurant. The construction would involve demolishing a single-family home and garages currently on the property, although the demolition is under a six-month delay by order of the historical commission.

Kulis lives in the neighborhood where the restaurant is being proposed. With her neighbor Keely Savoie Sexton, she created an online petition that has attracted more than 250 signatures of those opposed to the restaurant, about half of whom list themselves as Easthampton residents.

The petition lists concerns with the traffic study for the project, litter, and that a Dunkin Donuts sign would be the first sign people see after the “Welcome to Easthampton” sign as some of the reasons the city should reject the restaurant.

“The Proposed Dunkin — a national chain – is antithetical to the aesthetics of Easthampton and its unique small business aesthetic,” reads the petition.

Sexton lives next to the proposed restaurant.

“If people knew about the project they would almost certainly be opposed to it,” Sexton said. “It’s on the bike path, it’s across the street from Mount Tom.”

She also said that although the property is zoned for highway business, “it’s really more of a residential area,” and that the restaurant would change the quality of the neighborhood drastically.

In her discussions with neighbors, Kulis said, she found only one person in favor of the project.

At Tuesday night’s planning board meeting, a number of residents raised objections to the shop, with traffic a prominent sore point.

“The traffic concerns are real,” said Lauren Simonds. “That’s an entrance to a mostly residential area.”

Speaking at the meeting, Robert Levesque, whose company R. Levesque Associates prepared the applications, praised the Sardinha family, who own American Dream Realty, as local franchise owners.

“They are quality hard-working people,” he said.

American Dream Realty owns and operates 13 Dunkin Donuts in western Massachusetts.

Emmanuel Sardinha, speaking to the Gazette, said the company is a family business.

“We want to be good neighbors,” he said.

Sardinha said that they were exploring putting an 8-foot vinyl fence around the dumpsters at the proposed restaurant to help address the concerns of neighbors.

He also said the existing traffic at the site is why it was selected, while also noting that Easthampton is an up and coming city.

“There’s plenty of traffic there,” he said.

At the conclusion of its meeting, the Planning Board voted to authorize City Planner Jeff Bagg to select a firm to conduct a peer review of the traffic study that was done for the proposed project.

“We just want to double-check their numbers,” said Bagg, speaking to the Gazette.

The board also voted to continue discussion of the project to Aug. 25.

Bagg expressed hope that the peer review could be completed by the Aug. 25 meeting. He also said that if negative traffic impacts were found and could not be mitigated, that could be cause for denying a permit.

“We’re still in the fact-finding stage,” he said, noting that it’s too early to draw conclusions.

Sardinha said that the company is awaiting the results of the peer review, and that they are prepared to adjust the project as need be.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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