UNITY, Maine — Residents here have launched a petition to prevent a Dunkin’ franchise from operating on the town’s historic Main Street.
About 50 people have signed the petition so far, which asks the Unity Planning Board to reconsider its approval of the project.
Right now, there’s a Dunkin’ located in the Depot Country Store on Depot Street in Unity. But the proposal to move it to Main Street, in a new standalone building located between Nason Drive and Vickery Lane, is causing jitters among some.
Those include Kristin Mozes, who lives with her family on Vickery Lane. She was surprised last month when she learned about the proposal through Facebook, just a day before the Unity Planning Board approved it.
The house they rent is next to one of the two lots where Colleen Bailey of Norridgewock plans to build a 2,064-square-foot Dunkin’ franchise with a two-lane drive-thru and 18 parking spaces. Both the entrance and the exit to the fast-food restaurant will be located on Vickery Lane, a narrow road without much traffic.
From left: The Unity Planning Board recently approved the construction of a new Dunkin’ on two parcels of land on Main Street. One parcel is home to this dilapidated and empty farmhouse, which is locally known as the “Trump House.”; This is an artist’s rendition of the proposed Dunkin’ that has been approved to be built on Main Street in Unity. Credit: Abigail Curtis | BDN
“I don’t think putting a [Dunkin’] in the middle of town is the answer, personally,” Mozes said. “I have talked to other community members. It’s not just me. It seems like everyone on my street is confused about what’s happening, and other neighbors as well. We’re all opposed to it.”
The franchise owner could not be reached for comment, but Mozes said the town should have notified neighbors about the proposed change. She said the proposal goes against Unity’s land-use ordinance, which was adopted in 1995 and last revised in 2011.
It specifies that off-street parking in the village district must not detract from the “existing residential character of the neighborhood.” Building exteriors visible from the street also should be compatible with the traditional character of downtown Unity.
“It’s kind of appalling, how many parts of the ordinance they’ve ignored,” she said.
But Penny Sampson, chair of Unity’s board of selectmen, said the town’s ordinance only indicates that abutters must be notified — but it doesn’t specify how.
“And therein lies the rub,” she said.
The town shared information about the proposed Dunkin’ on its website, advertised it for two weeks in the Republican Journal and posted about it on two local Facebook pages that have several followers in town. Sampson feels that was sufficient to let people know about the plans.
She also believes that the Dunkin’ is compatible with the proposed location on Main Street, which already is home to businesses including a bank, hair salons, a real estate office and the Unity House of Pizza.
“The designer had to follow certain rules as to colors, window style and roof pitch,” she said. “It’s not a big concrete block in the middle of town. There are other things that have to be followed, such as signage and lighting, to minimize impact to neighbors.”
Sampson said the planning board isn’t obligated to reconsider the permit, “unless there was an egregious error,”
“I really don’t think that it’s a huge number of people” who oppose the project, she said. “I think it’s a few very vocal people.”
But Mozes said her weeks since learning about the proposed Dunkin’ have been both educational and busy.
“I have a real stake in this,” she said. “My life went from being very quiet to being a lot of town politics, all of a sudden.”
Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ operates nearly 12,900 stores around the world, including franchises in more than 60 towns across Maine.