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Dummerston DRB rejects drive-through

Approves Dunkin’ Donuts shop at Exit 4 gas station

DUMMERSTON—Dummerston might be getting a new Dunkin’ Donuts store, but it won’t have a drive-through window.

On Jan. 4, the town Development Review Board (DRB) issued a conditional use permit for the doughnut shop to Sandri Realty of Greenfield, Mass., the owners of Mike & Terry’s Exit 4 Sunoco on Route 5, near Exit 4 of Interstate 91 and the Dummerston/Putney town line.

But the DRB rejected a request to build a drive-up window at the gas station, and to alter the signage at the site.

The DRB decision came after a Dec. 20 hearing, where extensive testimony from Sandri and opponents to the plan was presented.

The main objections, according to Dummerston resident Eva Greene, was that the station “fails to meet state and local zoning regulations and legal requirements in four categories: signage, minimum setback from a state highway, minimum acreage for rural commercial development, and building on a power line right-of-way.”

The Sunoco station was built by Sandri in 1969, not long after Interstate 91 opened and before the stricter land use regulations of Act 250 were adopted in 1970. The convenience store opened in 1988. Both uses predate town zoning regulations, according to the DRB.

The site is located in Dummerston’s rural commercial zoning district, directly off Exit 4 southbound, and plainly visible from the northbound exit. The station is open 24 hours a day. A National Grid high-voltage transmission line also skirts the edge of the site.

In rejecting the drive-though, the DRB wrote that “the effect of the proposed development is that it will be a major, if not the greatest traffic generator for this section of highway,” and it believed the site “lacks the space and flexibility of layout for these competing activities.”

“If the site is used in the manner proposed,” the board concluded, “unnecessary additional congestion will result and vehicle-vehicle and vehicle-pedestrian conflicts will increase. If the drive-thru feature is eliminated these problems will be minimized and an additional parking space and a loading space can be accommodated in the currently designated parking areas.”

As for signage, the DRB wrote that it found the existing signs “greatly excessive” and that even though Sandri offered to remove the signs related to the proposed drive-through, “the remaining interstate pylon sign, the gas price signs and the proposed Dunkin’ Donut building surface sign total 186 square feet, more than three times the allowed 50 square foot limit.”

In the decision, the DRB also asked the Planning Commission to “review and clarify the bylaw language for uses and related definitions related to gasoline stations, restaurants, retail stores and drive-thru business with its next bylaw update.”

The District 2 Environmental Commission will now consider Sandri’s application.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #137 (Wednesday, February 1, 2012).

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