Those hoping for easier access to Dunkin’ Donuts should not despair, just wait.
After nearly a year, the Dunkin’ Donuts at 1509 E. Franklin Street is still seeking approval to add a drive-thru even though the city code requires businesses to have a special use permit to install a drive-thru.
The Town of Chapel Hill held a public meeting on Oct. 25 on the matter. Michael Sudol, a planner in the Town Department of Planning and Development Services, said the turnout was low.
“There were six people total at the meeting: myself, the applicant, the property owner and then three other people showed up," he said. "For the most part, there weren’t many concerns raised."
However, the citizens in attendance did express concern over the project, namely its effect on traffic flow.
“With any drive-thru, they have to do an analysis of how many cars can be stacked around the building before it spills out into the roadway,” Sudol said. “It was largely just talking about other drive-thrus in Town and wondering if the stacking on this site is sufficient for being able to handle drive-through traffic.”
Those in attendance, Sudol said, pointed specifically to the nearby Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, where only a few cars can fit into the driveway before the line extends into the street and affects traffic.
Alfredo Ellzey, a UNC junior, expressed concern about a line interfering with traffic.
He said Sunset’s hours mean there is not a long drive-thru line during rush hour traffic, and he suggested the Dunkin' drive-thru also be closed during those hours.
Sudol said that Pete Turner, the owner of the Chapel Hill Dunkin' Donuts seeking the permit, is working to prove that 10 cars could be stacked in the drive-thru without affecting traffic, and Turner assured the Town in the meeting that the number of cars would rarely exceed five.
The Daily Tar Heel reached out to Turner, but he did not respond to a request for comment.
Sudol said the length of the drive-thru and the average time spent there have to be taken into account.
This issue of traffic ties into the wider barriers businesses face when applying for permit modifications in the Town. He said applicants have to meet certain factual standards in the process of obtaining a special use permit.
These standards include meeting all regulations set out by the Town, not lowering the value of neighboring properties and meeting the general plan for the development of the Town.
Sudol said the current proposal still has to go through several advisory boards before the applicant can bring it to the town council, and then the council can make its decision.
However, Sudol said anyone who pursues a drive-thru has surely decided it's worth the effort.
“But in this case, the property owner feels that the time spent to get through a special use permit approval, to get the drive-thru, would be worth the potential revenue that they would get from installing it,” he said.
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