Tweaked: Failed Dunkin’ Donut Developer’s Back On Pleasant Street With New Proposal

Photo: The new design for the strip mall at Pleasant and Brighton.

The development team whose attempt to build a Dunkin’ Donut restaurant at the corner of Pleasant and Brighton streets was shot down by the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals in January 2016 is back before the town with a new proposal for the site.

Although “new” will be seen as a stretch for some as Nick Leo’s proposed strip mall does mention a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant as one “alternative” in occupying the larger storefront at the former Pleasant Street Getty service station located at 350 Pleasant St. which Leo bought for $1,060,000 in July 2014.

But this time, rather than building a strip mall with one of his franchise as the anchor tenant that would involve what some contend is a zoning board not favorably disposed to business interests, the development’s retail spaces will be open to anyone.

‘Once site plan approval is granted and the construction schedule is set up, Mr. Leo will then seek out possible tenants,” said Joseph Noone, the Belmont-based attorney for the Leo Organization.

Leo’s plan this time is to build the structure under the review of the Planning Board and “if a future tenant use requires a special permit under the Belmont By-Law, the tenant will apply to the ZBA for a special permit if the proposed use is not permitted as of right,” said Noone.

The new concept comes before the Planning Board on Tuesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. for a Site and Design Review a year-and-a-half after the Zoning Board of Appeals voted down the application in January 2016 due to traffic and parking issues.

Leo, the owner of 20 Dunkin’ Donut franchises in Massachusetts and Florida, is seeking to build a 3,516 sq.-ft. strip mall with three retail spaces of 1,500, 1,000  and 746 square feet with 269 square feet of common space. The site will have 21 parking spaces, seven more than is required in an LB3 zone.

In many ways, the new design is similar to the failed plan which included a 3,500 sq.-ft. building with a pair of 1,000 sq.-ft. retail operations.

While an application is prohibited for two years to return to the ZBA after being rejected, the new project is considered just enough of a change to allow it back before the town.

“In essence, the footprint of the building is not changed from the plans previously submitted,” said Noone, noting that a small second-floor storage space was eliminated.

The big difference is what’s going inside the space, said Noone. The initial design came before the ZBA as it needed a special permit to use one of the retail spaces as a Dunkin Donuts. Since the new proposal only mentions two possible uses – or alternatives – the Planning Board will only review the proposed structure.

“The denial of the special permit for the use of a Dunkin Donuts [in 2016] does not preclude seeking site plan approval for the proposed structure,’ said Noone.

Noone said the new design incorporates suggestions and requests by abutters, neighbors and the town made during the ZBA hearings, including moving the new building closer to Pleasant Street. and the placement of the dumpster, transformer, and environmental remediation equipment.

Leo also hosted an informational meeting for the neighbors on May 9 at Noone’s office, which was attended by several neighbors. 

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  1. Sonja says

    Belmont shoukd propose thst on every corner of town shoukd have a dunkin Donuts….traffic isn’t bad enough with cars going up & down my street at 60/70 MPH. We need a D D on a corner so people can stop to get coffee& donuts.

    • A Smithey says

      Sonja, what street in Belmont has asphalt good enough to reach 60 MPH and a clear lane with no traffic to accelerate to that speed? My car often feels like it is going to vibrate itself to pieces at the newly mandated speed of 25 MPH, yet it hardly ever gets to that speed. So often I am stuck in endless traffic on Trapelo road, Leonard street, or Concord Ave on a quite Sunday afternoon let alone during rush hour.. I do protest your use of hyperbole, as it adds nothing to this story which explains without the use of the exact words, the clear and blatant end run this developer is attempting on the ZBA.

      The zoning board would be wise to reject or postpone this application until a legal contract is signed by a reputable tenant with intent to occupy and the developer can communicate clear plans for the space therein.

      • Jonathan says

        Hyperbole is suggesting there is “endless traffic” anywhere in Belmont on a Sunday. Almost all the traffic we have is caused by commuters going through Belmont from other towns to other towns. It’s not going away, and adding a handful of people going to a tax-paying business actually IN Belmont is hardly going to make the problem worse. But it will make Belmont better.

    • Jonathan says

      Won’t stopping for donuts cause them to slow down, at least? 🙂 And we can use the tax money. A business contributes to town finances while not costing much in the way of town resources, especially space in our overcrowded schools. Compare that to the dense residential developments that we seem to have no problem approving, where each tenant will likely cause the town to lose money every year*. So, I sincerely hope the zoning board decides rethink their position this time around and be part of the solution to the town’s looming financial problems.

      *Conservatively assuming each family moving into the condos in the new developments has, on average, 0.5 children and each condo unit is assessed at about $450,000, the town will end up spending about $8000 per unit on schooling alone, while collecting about $6000 in taxes.

      • Ann says

        Spot on, increased real estate taxes and meal tax revenue to the town, less zero kids in the school system!

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