Dublin residents weigh pros and cons of drive-throughs in town
By MEGHAN PIERCE Union Leader Correspondent
DUBLIN — A proposed zoning amendment that would permit commercial drive-throughs in a commercial zone at the intersection of routes 101 and 137 is being opposed by some residents who say it would set the wrong tone for this corner of New Hampshire.
The proposed change would directly affect the Cheshire Oil gas station at the intersection, which had proposed a $1 million renovation to their gas station last year that included plans for a drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts.
That plan was withdrawn, said Planning Board Chairman Bruce Simpson on Thursday. But during the site plan process there was confusion surrounding the drive-through plan because the town zoning ordinance is vague on the subject, he said.
“It wasn’t exactly clear in the ordinance if a drive-through would be allowed in or not,” Simpson said.
So anticipating the subject would come up again, Planning Board members sought input from the public, and then based on that feedback proposed the zoning change so voters could decide.
“It seemed like there were more people for it, before it caught a lot of publicity and since then it seems there is a lot more people against,” Simpson said.
Andy Freeman, owner of Dublin General Store, is part of a group of concerned citizens who oppose the zoning change.
He is also at the center of the publicity surrounding the zoning amendment since he and his wife, in reaction to the proposed zoning change, posted a sign on a Route 101 property they own that reads “Coming Soon Taco Bell.”
“I would never do it, but somebody that bought the property from me could. There could be a Taco Bell there. I was just saying: be careful what you wish for,” Freeman said Thursday.
The proposed drive-through was just one of many variances Cheshire Oil was seeking last year, Freeman said.
He said he and the other concerned citizens are not opposed to a renovation of the business, “What is there now has existed there for a long time,” he said, but a drive-through goes beyond what is appropriate for the site. “We would be setting a precedent for this corner of New Hampshire.”
“It’s not an anti-Cheshire Oil campaign. It is a campaign for Dublin, the integrity and the beauty of Dublin, New Hampshire. And we just don’t feel a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through is a necessary component of that type of upgrade,” he said.
As a member of the fire department, Freeman said he knows firsthand how often emergency responders go to the intersection for accidents. Adding a drive-through would add more traffic, which would be a safety concern, he said.
Additionally the proposed zoning amendment, Article 6, would not just make a commercial drive-through — permitted in the neighborhood commercial district where Cheshire Oil is located — but would allow them by special exception in the village and rural districts, only prohibiting them in the mountain district.
Voters will decide at the polls Tuesday, March 11 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Town Hall.