Barrington Planning Board denies Starbucks plan

Drive-through lane at the center of residents' concerns, and board's denial

Posted 5/28/20

Members of the Barrington Planning Board support the development of a new Starbucks restaurant in town, but not if it includes a drive-through lane.

During their March meeting, members of the …

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Barrington Planning Board denies Starbucks plan

Drive-through lane at the center of residents' concerns, and board's denial


Members of the Barrington Planning Board support the development of a new Starbucks restaurant in town, but not if it includes a drive-through lane.

During their March meeting, members of the board shared their concerns about the drive-through lane portion of the plan. A number of residents also spoke out in opposition.

Eventually, the planning board unanimously denied the Starbucks proposal's advisory development plan review to the town's zoning board on the basis that the proposed drive-through lane portion of the application does not comply with the town's development plan review standards, zoning ordinance, or comprehensive plan.

The motion to the deny the plan was made at the March meeting, and the planning board officially voted on the motion during its online meeting held in April.

According to minutes from the March meeting, residents took turns questioning certain portions of the Starbucks plan.

Susannah Holloway said she was concerned about an increase in traffic downtown from the proposed drive-through. She also voiced concerns about air quality issues that could arise from cars making their way through the proposed drive-through lane.

Chip Wilkerson said he too was worried about an increase in traffic resulting from the proposed restaurant. And Martha Ellicott said that other Starbucks restaurants in the area that have drive-through lanes are located in large commercial areas connected to main roads and traffic lights.

Katherine Adams said the drive-through lane does not fit with the character of Barrington's downtown, and she was also worried about the increased traffic's impact on school bus travel times.

David Brown, who lives in Country Club plat nearby, shared a video of traffic near the site that he had recorded on the day of the meeting. He said the video showed nearly 300 cars traveling south on County Road and about 150 traveling north, for a total of 439 cars traveling past the site during an 18-minute time period. He said he was concerned about the data developers used for their traffic study.

Another resident, Brian Hughes, questioned the traffic study conducted by the developers, stating it was not very comprehensive.

Wendy Wajda, who used to run the BP gas station and auto repair shop located on the site of the proposed Starbucks, said traffic entering and exiting the parcel would be more problematic for Starbucks than it was for the gas station. She also questioned whether the allotted parking spaces would be sufficient for the seating capacity planned at the restaurant.

Larry Trim, a direct abutter, shared his concerns about the level of noise that could be produced at the Starbucks. He said a boundary fence for the property should be no lower than the existing eight-foot fence. He and others also questioned the appropriateness of the drive-through lane, stating that it appeared to run counter the town's plan to create a more walkable downtown Barrington.

Jim Lanakis, who also lives nearby, said the drive-through lane would create an unacceptable level of congestion and hazard, and pointed to a section of the town's zoning ordinance (200-90 B) that, he said, clearly prohibits the drive-through lane. Zoning ordinance 200-90 B states that "Traffic exiting from a drive-through facility shall not exit the parcel onto County Road."

Scott Spear, an attorney representing the developer, drafted a memo on ordinance 200-90, and stated that the proposed drive-through lane exits onto an interior driveway on the property and not directly onto County Road. During his closing remarks, Mr. Spear said that other properties in town have drive-through lanes and do not face the restrictions the proposed Starbucks is facing.

Peter Bassett, who represents the applicant, said deliveries to the restaurant could be scheduled in a way that would not disturb neighbors. He also said that the parking included in the plan fulfills the requirements offered by the town.

Members of the planning board offered some statements prior to making their motion for denial.

Jonathan Weinstein said he supported the development of the new Starbucks but only without the drive-through lane, which, he said, would have a negative impact on already-existing traffic problems.

Jared Wallace said he has personally experienced the traffic issues in that part of town and believes the Starbucks proposal runs contrary to the town's stated goals of creating a more walkable downtown. He also shared his concerns about vehicle exhaust from cars idling in the drive-through lane impacting neighboring properties. Mariana Silva-Buck echoed those concerns.

Ron Pitt referenced his concerns about some of the information from the traffic study, and spoke about the proposed drive-through lane. He read ordinance 200-90 B and said the drive-through lane should not be permitted.

Bill Kurtz said the proposal did not align with the objectives of the community, adding that the restaurant should be built but without a drive-through lane. Roni Phipps said the drive-through lane does not support the town's goal of a walkable village.

Robert Humm said he felt that the proposal did not meet the requirements of the applicable ordinance — he said he supported the new Starbucks but not the drive-through lane. His concerns for the proposal included: non-compliance with the town's comprehensive plan; that the drive-through would take away from the walkability of the town; the impacts of traffic increase; and the location of the crosswalk in proximity to the drive-through lane.

The board voted 7-0 to draft a decision denying advisory development plan review to the zoning board.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Bassett had told the planning board that Starbucks did not have an interest in the property without the drive-through lane, "as it is a term in the lease agreement." However, he has seen Starbucks return to a property and develop restaurants without drive-throughs.

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