Photo: Nick Leo (left) and Attorney Joseph Noone before the Zoning Board of Appeals
They will be “making the donuts” at the base of Belmont Hill as the Zoning Board of Appeals brought a three-year-long saga to an end approving a special permit allowing a well-known franchise owner to place a Dunkin’ Donuts store at the corner of Pleasant and Brighton streets.
The unanimous vote of the four members held Monday, May 14 will allow the Leo Organization to push forward on placing a franchise in a three-store strip mall at 344 Pleasant St. The Leos – son Nicholas and father Vincent – purchased a closed service station/former gas station for $1 million in 2014 with the intention to run “an excellent business” like their stores nearby in Fresh Pond and Massachusetts Avenue.
“It’s been a long road and we are very excited and we are looking forward to show that we can be a great neighbor,” said Nick Leo after the meeting.
Leo said his family’s company will “push” to have the store open by December. “It will be a challenge because we have been looking at nine to 12 months [in construction].” The store will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with daily deliveries between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The 25-minute meeting in front of nearly three dozen residents was the first in nearly five months as the public meeting had been continued since December 2017, as requests for additional data on traffic studies at the busy intersection requested by the board. In addition, the Leos were concerned the limited number of board members, in this case, four, who would vote on the permit would require a 4-0 decision to pass.
But in the end, the board’s verdict was almost anti-climatic after three years of at time heated debate and the initial rejection of the project by the Board in January 2016. Neighbors argued that a fast food restaurant at a congested corner just off of Route 2 would lead to increased traffic gridlock and reduced safety on the mostly residential streets. They also worried that a business known for its early hour operations would be burdensome to the tranquility of the area.
Attorney Joseph Noone, speaking for the Leo Organization, quickly reviewed the three major traffic-related issues the board sought clarification, including a peer review of the initial traffic study with a store in the location which reiterated the earlier findings which indicated a store would not have a great impact on the traffic flow in the area. The meeting was limited to the applicant as the public meeting portion had been closed months before.
While there were some issues with slight inconsistencies with some of the data, the board was soon faced with little ammunition to deny a special permit. Rather, members sought restrictions on time of operation and when deliveries could be made. Vice-chair Jim Zarkadas called the vote which went Leos’ way.
Nick Leo said he understood “that there were a lot of concerns [from the neighborhood]. We wanted to make sure they were addressed.”