THE GREAT DUNKIN’ DONUTS CONTROVERSY MAKES ITS WAY TO THE STONY POINT TOWN BOARD

Attorney Kevin Conway speaks for neighbors about Dunkin’ Donuts proposed alteration (Photo: Kathy Kahn)

Residents bring concerns over Dunkin’ expansion to councilmen

BY KATHY KAHN 

Residents who live in and around the Willow Grove/Algonquin Road area brought an attorney to Stony Point’s November 28 meeting. Counsel Kevin Conway is representing the homeowners who do not want to see the WW2-era gas station/convenience store turned into something akin to a truck stop.

Conway, who was once eyed for Stony Point town attorney by then Supervisor William Sherwood only to be rejected by an uncooperative board, asked this incarnation of the board to consider intervening on the homeowners’ behalf to stop the expansion. The Town’s Planning Board is currently holding public hearings on the matter.

The area is zoned ‘rural residential’ and the expansion of the once family-owned gas station and mini convenience store, which has been there since shortly after WW2, was ‘grandfathered’ in when the area was rezoned, Conway explained. As a non-conforming prior use, further expansion is clearly prohibited, the attorney contends.

Plans by the new owner that are in the works would grow the site from its current 1,400 square feet to over double the footprint, as well as adding a second story to the current building and a seating area for the Dunkin’ Donuts. Conway said, the existing Dunkin’ Donuts had never even been properly approved. The continuing expansion of the commercial lot needs to stop, he argued.

“Residents have asked me to speak to you,” said Conway Tuesday evening in the packed room. “They are discouraged by the Planning Board and have been treated shabbily by its members.  It’s important the Town Board knows what’s happening. Dunkin’ Donuts is proposing to add a second story to its building. If it follows the pattern of other Dunkin’ Donuts’ stores, there will most likely be a drive-through as well, which would exit on to Algonquin Road. An enlarged gas station/Dunkin’ Donuts in that location does not work because of the traffic and noise that would be caused on Algonquin Road for residents and school buses trying to navigate the neighborhood.”

Stony Point’s Town Attorney, Brian Nugent, explained to the public that all boards are independent and the Town Board cannot intervene in the workings of either board and vice versa.  Even though the site’s neighbors feel the decision has already been made to grant the owner the right to essentially rebuild the existing site, Nugent said their only alternative would be to bring an Article 78 against the Planning Board to stop the reconstruction of the property.

The Planning Board is still holding public hearings and no final application has been granted. Conway told the Town Board neither the owner of the property or the Planning Board have answered any of the questions put to them about what the property will turn into if approved.

Supervisor Jim Monaghan said, “Technically, they do not have to answer the public’s questions, but they are on the record, just like the comments tonight will appear on our records.”

Deputy Supervisor Tom Basile agreed. He said, “We cannot intervene but…your questions, although they remain unanswered, are part of the Planning Board’s minutes.”

Councilman James White, who lives in the Willow Grove Road area, says designs have changed several times and the Planning Board has not been forthcoming with information.

Councilman Karl Javenes added, “We can ask, but we don’t have any way to compel the Planning Board to answer.”

According to Conway, the current plan indicates the site will end up being taken down and be rebuilt to accommodate a gas station and an enlarged Dunkin’ Donuts or other mystery commercial entity, since the building is past its useful life and “there’s no way anyone can ‘build’ around it as the owner claims. Because it is in an area zoned rural residential, Conway says the applicant should be before the Zoning Board, not the Planning Board, a matter the lawyer expects to win in court.

“There is no way the current owner can make these changes without demolishing the existing structure; therefore, the ‘grandfather’ clause for the original establishment would no longer exist,” Conway said.

Peter Polizzi, a NYS licensed planner, reaffirmed Conway’s statement.  “It’s an antiquated structure and there’s no way to ‘build’ around it. It’s going to have to be torn down to make the changes proposed and lose its grandfathering.”

The council then began to echo the concerns of the residents.

Supervisor Jim Monaghan told all concerned, “The Town Board wants to attract rateables, but this is not the kind of rateable we are looking for. We are looking for new business to come into the town, not for an expansion of a former country convenience store to turn into a truck stop.”

Councilman James White added, “We can’t do anything until something happens…the Planning Board is still in the midst of the public hearing.”

The next Planning Board meeting will be held on Thursday, December 7 at 7 p.m. at the RHO building, when the public hearing on the alterations to the premises on Willow Grove Road.

Dylan Skriloff contributed to this report