The combined Dunkin’ Donuts and gas station, approved by the DRB nearly two years ago, is currently under construction. At a hearing on Dunkin’ Donuts’ sign application two weeks ago, representatives were told their menu board sign would need too many waivers, and their proposed internally lit roadside business sign would not be considered “grandfathered” unless it maintained the current dimensions, construction, and location.
This week, Dunkin’ Donuts and Sandri Realty returned with alternative proposals that included a smaller menu board with variable lighting, and a roadside sign they believed would preserve the grandfathered status of the current sign.
Speaking for the applicants, Keith Dubois told board members that the roadside business stand would use the current internally lit Sunoco sign, but would replace the current internally lit three-price sign with an internally lit sign with a single gasoline price and a Dunkin’ Donuts sign.
But Richard Marks, of Sandri Realty, said that’s not the sign they believe will look best at the location. “Right now, that one looks hideous,” he said, pointing to a drawing of the proposed sign. “It’s there, it follows the rules, and it’s grandfathered. We want to clean it up and move it back from the road.”
Dubois and Marks offered a second proposal for an internally lit sign with a single gasoline price and Dunkin’ Donuts sign, topped by a Sunoco sign. The signs would be mounted between two poles; the current sign is on a single pole. Marks said the second proposed sign would be about two feet shorter than the current sign, and would be located farther from the sidewalk. But when board members said Sandri would lose the grandfathered status of their internally lit sign with the second design, Marks hesitated. “We’d rather go with the single pole rather than lose illumination.”
Several members of the public called on Dunkin’ Donuts and Sandri to abandon the internally lit signs, and to agree to an externally illuminated wooden sign for the location. “If Dunkin’ Donuts made it a wood sign, they’d get more community good will, and more people would come in,” said Todd Gareiss.
Judith Louderback, the only abutting property owner to weigh in on the matter, said the internally lit signs would add to light pollution problems on East Main Street. “I have a real problem with that (sign),” she said. “It’s in a terrible location. I live right across the street. My bedroom will look at this sign, and it’s already giving me a nightmare or two.”
Louderback also noted that the area was the subject of a streetscape improvement project by the town, and suggested that the sign would not complement the upgrade. “They’re proposing to put in new sidewalks, curbs, and retaining walls to make that area better than it is,” she said. “It would be a shame to have this sign if the town is putting in all that work. I think if you put in a nice sign, lit from above, without being internally lit, the town would be far more friendly to them.”
Dubois offered to make the white portions of the grandfathered Dunkin’ Donuts sign opaque, to cut down on the amount of light emitted from the sign. After additional questioning from DRB members and comments from the public, a Dunkin’ Donuts representative sitting at the back of the room stood up to offer a compromise on the second proposed sign. “Dunkin’ Donuts is sympathetic to the issue, and we want the support of the community,” he said. “It’s important to have. We’ll concede to a wooden (Dunkin’ Donuts) sign at the front of the building.”
Mike Behn, of Sandri, stipulated that the Sunoco sign would still be internally lit, but it would be the same size as the current sign. The gasoline price portion of the sign would be made of plastic, said Marks, but he said it would not be internally lit.
The second sign issue was that of the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through menu board.
At their last meeting, Dunkin’ Donuts proposed a 45-square-foot internally lit sign. This week, they returned with a proposal for a 23.5-square-foot sign, and showed several options for external lighting. Internal lighting, Marks said, would be better for customers and would mean less light pollution.
Dubois said the standard sign is lit by five strips of LED lights, but told board members it could be lit with three LED strips, and he offered to install a dimmer switch so they could adjust the minimum amount of light needed for customers to see the menu.
Gareiss noted that the town’s zoning brochure indicates that signs cannot “emit an audible noise.” He asked if the menu board, with its speaker and microphone for ordering, fit the rule. Board members searched through the ordinance, but saved their answer for deliberations.
The hearing was closed, and the board has up to 45 days to render a decision.