By Margret Brady
A large crowd of residents came to Wednesday’s zoning board meeting to hear another 75 minutes of testimony regarding a Dunkin’ Donuts proposed for the Gulf station at the intersection of Mills and Washington streets in Morristown.
They heard discussions of traffic counts, crosswalks, buffers, location of driveways, removal of a proposed drive-in window and details about safety factors and some additional seating.
Joseph Staigar, a traffic consultant for Madison Enterprises LLC, owner of the Gulf station, testified that the fast-food restaurant should have minimal impact on traffic because most Dunkin Donuts customers already will have stopped there for gas on the way to or from work.
In his opinion, a prior auto repair business generated more traffic, because people dropping off cars for repairs needed another vehicle to take them home and return them later.
Staigar also suggested that some Dunkin’ Donuts customers would walk there from the surrounding neighborhood.
In a statement that raised a lot of eyebrows in the audience, Staigar also contended that traffic through the intersection has declined since May of 2014, despite the opening of a Whole Foods Market.
Residents came prepared to ask questions, but board Chairman Cary Lloyd cut short the hearing because of a crowded docket of other cases. The Dunkin’ Donuts case is scheduled to resume next month.
The project needs a use variance to allow the dual use. And the gas station would need to be re-ratified, because it’s already a non-conforming use in an office/residential zone, according to the project’s lawyer, former Mayor Jay DeLaney. Additional variances also are required.
A proposed drive-through lane was removed from the application in March, in response to concerns from neighbors. Plans now call for a one-way employee-only driveway, to access four new parking spaces behind the proposed restaurant.
Those spaces would go into what had been intended as a buffered area; larger trees now would be replaced with smaller shrubs. The front driveway also would be moved four feet from a crosswalk.