SEARSPORT – Opposition to a Dunkin’ Donuts opening off U.S. Route 1 just west of downtown already has organized – even though there is no application before the planning board.
John and Lee MacDonald, who own the Dunkin’ Donuts in Belfast, are considering applying to open a similar operation in Searsport, Lee MacDonald said Friday.
The couple has yet to file a formal application, she said, but there is a purchase and sales contract with the landowner for the site under consideration. That property is on the west side of the intersection of Cobb Road and U.S. Route 1.
“It’s at a very formative stage,” MacDonald said.
The concept was discussed in general terms with the planning board last Monday night.
While MacDonald would not discuss details, opponents of the project said the preliminary plans show the building fronting on Cobb Road. A three-lane entry would give access to the business from Cobb Road, and one exit onto Route 1 is being considered.
Nancy-Linn Nellis, owner of the Watchtide Inn, is one of the organizers of a petition drive seeking to block approval of the fast-food restaurant.
“We’re not saying we don’t want Dunkin’ Donuts,” she said Friday. “We’re saying it’s not the right location.”
The business would be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Nellis said, and closing hours could extend later into the night in the future.
Nellis described the neighborhood, a mile or so west of downtown, as dominated by home businesses. In addition to her bed-and-breakfast, there is a campground, a bookstore, a real estate agency and a gift shop.
“Having tractor-trailers going up Cobb Road doesn’t make sense,” she said.
The petition, copies of which are at Left Bank Books, the Grasshopper Shop, Coastal Coffee, Blue Jacket Shipcrafters, Village Farm Antiques, Periwinkle’s and the Watchtide Inn, expresses opposition to the Dunkin’ Donuts because it allegedly would clash with the “residential area peppered with antique cape-style, farm-style and Victorian-style homes.”
The petition claims that traffic hazards would arise from people slowing to turn right into the business or left from the opposite lane of Route 1, where the speed limit is 50 mph.
“We believe that a Dunkin’ Donuts on the west side of Searsport is inconsistent with the neighborhood, will infringe on the residents’ … quiet enjoyment of their properties and will direly affect property valuation,” the petition concludes.
Nellis believes as many as 75 registered voters in town have signed the petition.
George and Ellen Kimmerly, who live on the opposite corner of Cobb Road from the site of the proposed fast-food business, also are working to block its approval.
Ellen Kimmerly said the business would seek the addition of a turning lane on Route 1, which would need state Department of Transportation approval.
“They’d have to make it wide enough for tractor-trailers to make deliveries,” she said.
George Kimmerly said the Dunkin’ Donuts was another in a long line of projects for that parcel which residents have fought. In recent years, a used car sales lot and a flea market have been proposed for the site.
“We object to a national chain in between antique homes,” he said. “It doesn’t fit the area.”
The Kimmerlys and Nellis believe the town’s lack of zoning puts it at risk for development that may be seen as clashing with existing uses.
Bruce Probert, chairman of the planning board, said last week that if an application is made for a Dunkin’ Donuts, it must be reviewed on the basis of a list of performance standards in the town’s ordinance, not on public sentiment.