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Chapel Hill Dunkin' Donuts petitions for drive-thru

A concept design for new Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru. Courtesy of Pete Turner.

The Chapel Hill Dunkin’ Donuts is petitioning to add a drive-thru to its business, but the process is harder than some may think. 

Businesses must apply for a special use permit from the Town Council before the drive-thru can be approved, as it is an attempt by the town to limit traffic and emissions. 

Pete Turner, the owner of the Chapel Hill Dunkin’, said they are hoping for over 2000 signatures on the petition and are close to reaching that number. Community members can sign the petition at the Dunkin' Donuts on East Franklin Street. 

The mission statement at the top of the petition states, “As a matter of convenience for expecting moms, parents with toddlers, ADA guests and all guests during inclement weather, we the undersigned, would greatly appreciate the approval of a drive thru lane at Dunkin' Donuts in Chapel Hill.”

Ann Fitts, junior communications and political science major, signed the petition. Fitts and her friends used to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts at Southpoint, which has a quick, easy drive-thru.

“Last year I interned and drove by Dunkin’ Donuts,” she said, “but it was early in the morning, and I never really had time to stop and go inside.”

Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said, as he understands it, Dunkin’ built their current building under a special use permit that did not allow a drive-thru and would now like to modify that permit with permission from the town council.

Turner said a new drive-thru in Chapel Hill requires a set of four conditions: the menu board must not be visible from the street, there must be room on the property for a ten-car stack, the drive-thru window must be screened by four-foot evergreens and there must be a pedestrian crosswalk with a raised path.

“We meet and exceed these expectations,” he said.

Turner said he is optimistic about approaching the town council for a vote. The traffic problems, that the council worries about with other drive-thrus, will not be a large issue.

“We will have a pull-up lane where people with large orders can wait, so the line will keep flowing,” he said. 

Fitts, who visits the Dunkin’ regularly, said that with a drive-thru, the store would get a lot more business. 

“I think the way they made that Dunkin’ Donuts it would be easy to incorporate a drive-thru and not completely disrupt traffic,” she said.

Turner also said that they will add a sign that would prohibit stopping on Franklin Street, should the line get too long.

Fitts said that she hopes this drive-thru will give way for other drive-thru restaurants in Chapel Hill, such as Cook Out. However, Nelson does not think that many other restaurants in the area will add drive-thrus.

“Drive-thrus don’t work on most properties and won’t work for most buildings,” Nelson said.

Turner said they try to be good neighbors at Dunkin’, support both local high schools and are in Kenan Stadium and the Smith Center. Adding a drive-thru will be another way Dunkin’ will continue to support the community.

He believes they could put in a formal application for the drive-thru by March, and then the town council would vote.

“I think we have a fairly compelling case once they see our concept plan and 2000 plus signatures,” Turner said. “But at the end of the day there’s only (eight) votes that matter.”


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