Residents, officials against donut plan

Parking, buffer

issues among concerns

with Dunkin’ Donuts


Staff Writer

The Old Bridge municipal courtroom was packed with residents Tuesday night in a show of opposition to a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts.

Manasquan-based Lufrank-ton Management has applied to convert Jimmie’s Ice Cream shop on Englishtown Road into a Dunkin’ Donuts, complete with a drive-thru and a Baskin Robbins.

Residents in the area have said they feel the plan is unreasonable, citing several concerns about the relief the applicant would require from the Planning Board in order to build the proposal.

The lot size, the number of parking spaces, lack of a loading zone for deliveries, a substantially reduced buffer zone — 50 feet is the required number; Lufrankton proposes 12 feet — and traffic concerns topped the list of resident comments.

“What we are proposing is a 2,100-square-foot, prototypical Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins store with drive-thru facilities,” said Richard Kenderian, engineer for Lufrankton.

“A Dunkin’ Donuts is one of the smaller commercial uses you’re going to find,” he noted.

The lot size is half of what is required by township ordinance for a building of the proposed size.

“What I’m saying is, it’s too large for this particular site,” said board Chairman Lawrence Redmond. Residents at the meeting applauded the statement.

Kenderian said in his testimony that this particular store would not have a bakery on the premises.

“Deliveries are typically made by single-unit trucks twice a day,” he said.

A loading zone is not needed, Kenderian said, because delivery vehicles could park in the drive-thru area during non-peak business hours while unloading their goods.

“That’s become an industry standard,” he said.

In all the restaurants Lufrankton has represented, which include many fast-food spots, most do not have a loading zone, he said.

Kenderian called the area between the Jimmie’s lot and abutting property a “no-man’s land,” a space between fences.

In terms of parking, township ordinance requires that for an application this size, 70 parking spots be available. The application calls for 14.

Kenderian described the proposal as a throwback to A&W Root Beer-type restaurants, where customers would drive in and eat in their cars. That many spaces are not needed, he said.

Additionally, he said, a drive-thru is the equivalent of “a moving parking stall.”

“I’m not saying 70 is the number,” Redmond said, “but 14 doesn’t sound like the number, either.”

Lufrankton representatives also contended that it is likely that many employees, especially those who are younger, will not drive to work and therefore not use up available parking. Planning Board members and residents present at the meeting took issue with that statement, some laughing at the comment.

Redmond said the reduction of the buffer area was one of the things about the application that bothered him the most. Board member Eugene Dunlop agreed.

“I’m concerned with the residential buffer,” Dunlop said. “I agree with you; you are investing a lot of money in there,” he told Richard Tilton, attorney for Old Bridge firm Heilbrunn, Pape and Goldstein, representing Lufrankton. “But these people,” he said while gesturing to the residents present, “have a lot of money invested in their homes, too.”

“You shouldn’t have a business sitting in your back yard,” Dunlop said.

Jason Soares, director of operations for 16 Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins locations, said he does not expect it to be a high-volume store, as it will have 20 to 30 customers per hour, with peak hours from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Hours of operation for the Dunkin’ Donuts would be from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. — different numbers than the 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. noted in the application filed with the Planning office.

Hours for the Baskin Robbins portion of the store would be busier in the evenings, with peak hours of 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Soares said he oversees similar sites, including a Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 9 across from Oasis Ford, and visits them up to four times a week to check on the parking situation. No more than five or six cars are parked in the lots when he goes, he said.

But most Dunkin Donuts properties are not stand-alone sites in a residential area, said board member Dr. George Koehler.

“This site needs changes,” Redmond said, including more available parking spaces for Baskin Robbins customers, who would likely not use the drive-thru and instead stay to eat their ice cream.

Redmond asked for statistics on the 16 sites that Soares oversees, including lot size and parking spot availability.

“I’m going to send you back to the drawing board on this,” he said.

Redmond suggested that Lufrankton representatives sit down with Township Planner Sam Rizzo and acting Engineer Parminder Sumal to come up with a better plan.

“I don’t see any way that you can do [a drive-thru] on that site without variances,” Rizzo said.

Mimi Road resident George Gonzalez reiterated his stance against the facility, citing a compromise on residents’ quality of life and “undue hardship” to those nearby. This proposal would only benefit the commercial industry, he said, while hurting homeowners.

“It is a wooded area, not a ‘no-man’s land,’ ” Gonzalez said of the buffer zone. Trees there absorb water and prevent flooding, and are 30 to 50 years old, he said.

Idling cars at the drive-thru, less than 50 feet from Gonzalez’s back yard, would cause pollution. And the sound system for the drive-thru would be too close to comfort, Gonzalez said.

“You can’t stretch land,” one resident said. “You can’t make a half acre into an acre.”

“We are Old Bridge,” she continued. “We, the ones that are sitting here … We are the ones that live there. We are the ones that should decide.”

Councilman Richard Greene also voiced his concern about the amount of variances needed.

“I personally take variances very seriously,” he said.

Building regulations are there for a reason, Greene said, noting they are usually for safety and improving quality of life for residents.

“Respect that. Respect the rules, and don’t grant the variances,” he told the board.

Councilwoman Lucille Panos called the application a “no-brainer” that should be voted down.

Residents also told the board that a drive-thru would compromise the safety of children attending Voorhees Elementary School and Jonas Salk Middle School, as well as neighborhood children. The peak morning hours would coincide with morning commutes to the schools.

“I ask each of you to go down to Englishtown Road and stand there at 7 o’clock in the morning and watch the cars come in,” said resident Lynette Gallagher. “On Saturday, I ask you to go down there when the auction is on, and it says ‘No parking on Englishtown Road.’

“For the safety of the children, I request that the board veto the proposal that is on the table now,” Gallagher said.

Lufrankton did not have a traffic study available Tuesday night.

“This we did not sign up for,” said resident Kelly Loftus.

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to make this work,” Redmond told Tilton. He also called the drive-thru “too intense a use” for the site.

“If a child were to get run over by someone going to buy a doughnut, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” Redmond said. “We’re talking about lives here.”

Lufrankton is scheduled to come back before the Planning Board on May 3 at 8 p.m. Any changed site plans will be available at least 10 days before that date.