| By Erin O'Connor |
WEST SPRINGFIELD At a Planning Board Meeting on Nov. 15 residents abutting the property of 2260 Westfield Street once again spoke out in opposition to a proposed Dunkin' Donuts drive-through facility. Residents cited traffic concerns and safety as their primary concerns.
At the meeting, property owner Sunil Patel and applicant Consulting and Design, LLC of Lee were represented by Attorney Michael Powers and hired traffic consultant J.S. Pechulis of Land Development Services, who deemed the property an acceptable location for the proposed Dunkin' Donuts with operating hours 5a.m. - 11 p.m.
"Mr. Patel purchased the property two and a half years ago, it is an underperforming piece of property," Powers said. "He would like to improve the parcel and improve the look of the property."
Powers said that after the last meeting with the Planning Board Patel was "taken aback at the number of people that were at the last hearing."
"There were concerns issued about noise," Powers said. "They [applicants] will work on this issue. They have answers and they want to get the general feel if this is of use on this property because he [Patel] has other properties he can use. It could be a very viable project it could improve the look and more."
J.S. Pechulis of Land Development Services, said, "By scaling numbers on the high side we came up with a rating of 'D' for the traffic study. We found that it [traffic] operated at a level 'D' during evening peak hours. We found under all conditions that we had acceptable levels of service." Level "D" is considered to be just acceptable for operating the facility
Abutters of the property, however, voiced serious concerns as to the accuracy of Pechulis' statistics. Citizens questioned the number of trips during a rush hour period into the parking lot.
"The worst case scenario of what we are looking at from 8 a.m. for rush hour traffic is 325 trips- that would include the entering and exiting of vehicles from 8 - 9 a.m.," Pechulis said in speaking of vehicles turning from Route 20 into the parking lot.
Pechulis said approximately 220 of these trips would be the result of Dunkin' Donuts customers. He said currently there are 50-55 trips that take place at the Route 20 intersection between these hours.
Pechulis said that he estimated numbers for the proposed Dunkin' Donuts business volume using receipt data he obtained from a Monson Dunkin' Donuts where a similar study was conducted.
"It is difficult with a stand alone Dunkin' Donuts," he said. "You can't equalize the business."
"You can take the numbers and crunch them anyway you want. That is what bean counters do," Anthony Bragga, an abutter and opponent of the facility, said.
Bragga said that with a new Dunkin' Donuts facility at the location it would result in more traffic accidents.
People who are pulling out of Sibley Avenue will see a blinker turned on and they will think people are turning into Sibley and not into the Dunkin' Donuts," Bragga said. "The only impact that I see is side doors and rear ends."
Changes in traffic Patterns
Pechulis said that there were current traffic patterns on the facility that were being examined and restructured for the proposed Dunkin' facility which included widths of current driveways.
"On Sibley Avenue they considered eliminating two drive ways but realized they had to provide for the exit of the vehicles,"Pechulis said "The South driveway would be converted to an exit only driveway," he added.
Julie Asta-Ferrero a West Springfield High School student who catches the bus on Sibley Avenue, did not like this answer.
"It would interfere with students getting to school on time," she said. "The bus would be late turning onto Sibley from Route 20 bringing students to school late."
Pechulis said there is also talk of narrowing the width of a driveway that opens onto Route 20.
"The vehicles exiting and entering the site would have to slow down to make a 90 degree angle when making the turn," he said.
"Not possible," Pat Passel, an abutter at 97 Chelsea Road, said. "Trying to take a 90 angle turn into Sibley Avenue, when I put my blinking light on there is barely enough time for someone to stop. It's a nightmare and I don't agree with what is going to happen here," she said.
Pechulis said that with the added driveways they experienced some increases in traffic delays but not a significant amount.
"The greatest increase was about five seconds per vehicle taking a left or a right on Route 20 in average delay," he said.
Carl Asta-Ferrero, an abutter, said he did not agree.
"To turn onto Route 20, I wait three to four minutes to take a turn," he said.
Pechulis said they have submitted all traffic forms with supplemental documentation to the Department of Public Works to Jim Zack, the city traffic engineer.
"Some of the items were satisfactory," Pechulis said. "There are still some outstanding issues he would like more info on."
Pechulis said that Zack had requested accident data on Route 20 from the West Springfield Police Department for the last three years and at that point it had not been received yet.
"If they are going to collect accident information why don't they collect it from when there was a Chinese Restaurant in this location?" Bragga asked. "It would be more than three years ago but then it would be more accurate numbers to what you are going to get here," he added. Bragga's question was not answered.
Pechulis said another area of the traffic study that is still being addressed includes going eastbound over the Route 20 train tracks and stopping to take a left turn. There were concerns at the last meeting as to the sun in people's eyes when making this turn.
"We will address these issues and concerns," he said. "We know where we are going. The important thing is that Mr. Zack has reviewed our report," he added.
Citizens also questioned the relevance of the proposed Dunkin' Donuts with the location of a Dunkin' facility within two miles in West Springfield and soon to be within two miles in Westfield at the site of the former Between Rounds location.
The Board questioned if they could get the presence of Zack at the next Board Meeting. Copies of the traffic study are available at www.west-springfield.ma.us/Public_Documents/WSpringfieldMA_Plan/2260WfldStFullReport1.pdf.
Citizens asked the Board why this site was deemed more suitable for a Dunkin' Donuts than the Little George's site that was previously looked at.
"We were not members of the Board when that decision was made," Frank Palange, vice chair of the Board said. "We would have made a different decision."
The last meeting of this issue was on Oct. 18 and at that time was continued pending results of the traffic study that was ordered by members of the Board and the DPW.
The meeting was ordered by the Planning Board to be continued to Dec. 20 at 7:10 p.m., pending comments from the Department of Public Works based on the traffic study. This will be the sixth continuation on the proposed Dunkin' Donuts facility.
Erin O'Connor can be reached at Erin@theReminder.com.