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Dublin

Do drive-throughs belong in Dublin?

Voters to weigh-in at the polls on plan to that could pave the way for further development at the Route 101/137 intersection

  • A group of Dublin residents, concerned that Article 6 on the ballot would turn the town into the only fast-food stop between Milford and Keene, have formed a committee to promote conservation.
  • A group of Dublin residents, concerned that Article 6 on the ballot would turn the town into the only fast-food stop between Milford and Keene, have formed a committee to promote conservation.
  • A group of Dublin residents, concerned that Article 6 on the ballot would turn the town into the only fast-food stop between Milford and Keene, have formed a committee to promote conservation.
  • A group of Dublin residents, concerned that Article 6 on the ballot would turn the town into the only fast-food stop between Milford and Keene, have formed a committee to promote conservation.
  • A group of Dublin residents, concerned that Article 6 on the ballot would turn the town into the only fast-food stop between Milford and Keene, have formed a committee to promote conservation.
  • Andrew Freeman<br/>Dublin<br/>The biggest issue we have in town, this year, is the question of whether or not to allow drive-thrus in Dublin. The word on the street is [it would] just in the commercial district, which would be the intersection of [Route] 137 and Route 101, but in actuality systemic. It would be also the village district and the rural district by special exception. It would allow fast food, banks, drug stores, any variety of commercial drive-thrus in town. So we have tried to, or at least I've tried to make people aware that this is a problem and something that we need to address at the ballot and we need to vote no on drive-thrus.

DUBLIN — Article 6 on the Dublin ballot would allow for commercial drive-throughs in Dublin’s Neighborhood Commercial District and has prompted a debate with one side arguing for conservation of wetlands and transparency in government, and the other claiming a drive-through is the only way the Cheshire Oil gas station — at the intersection of Route 137 and Route 101 — can be economically viable, given the multi-million dollar development people in town say Cheshire Oil is once again proposing.

Last year Cheshire Oil abandoned plans for a $1 million renovation to their gas station at theintersection after protests from abutters, who were worried that property values would be impacted significantly with a large commercial gas station nearby. At the time there was also concern from residents that the inclusion of a Dunkin Donuts drive-through would take away from the rural aesthetic that Dublin offers.

Those sentiments appear to still exist as residents are speaking out against Article 6 on the ballot, bringing the issue back to life.

A group of Dublin residents, concerned that the amendment would go against the town’s Master Plan and would inevitably mean opening other sections of the town to drive-throughs, have formed a committee to protest the article and educate voters.

A member of the resident committee formed in protest of the article, Andy Freeman, owner of the Dublin General Store, hosts the weekly committee meeting at his store to strategize and implement ways of reaching out to voters. Their strategies have included distributing informational pamphlets to residents and posting a 4-by-8-foot sign in a field along Route 101 that reads, “Coming Soon Taco Bell.” There is no plan for a Taco Bell in that field and its placement has confused some people, including a radio DJ, said Freeman, who talked about it on the air because he was excited that there would be a drive-through on the way to Keene.

Freeman has also had offers from a plumber and electrician who also mistook the message, both looking to bid on the project.

Freeman said he was handed a cease and desist order from the building inspector yesterday, ordering him to remove the sign from the field, which does not belong to him.

Steve Baldwin, a candidate on the ballot for the Dublin Planning Board, said Wednesday that the resident committee is using scare tactics to frighten people into voting “no.” He added that the Taco Bell sign is illegal, misleading, and shouldn’t have been placed in the field. Baldwin said improvements to the Cheshire Oil gas station in Dublin, previously Carr’s Store, and the addition of a single drive-through in that location would increase the property value, also bringing more tax dollars for the community.

“I’m not going to choose sides,” said Baldwin. “I want to give back to the town of Dublin with a common-sense, down-to-earth approach to planning.”

He said that the issue of a drive-through has been overblown and that drive-throughs would not threaten the other districts, because they would need a special exception from the Zoning Board in order to be built.

But Tuesday night, Freeman and members of the resident committee were more concerned, saying that while the article does indeed stipulate that a special exception for the other districts would be required, it does not safeguard them because special exceptions are almost always passed by the Zoning Board.

John Morris, a member of Dublin’s Conservation Commission, is also running for the Planning Board because of this issue. He. said that the land in question contains a stratified drift aquifer, the only body of water available to the town for public drinking purposes, and should remain undisturbed in case the town ever needs to use it.

The Cheshire Oil gas station has been grandfathered even though it sits on a wetland area. Extension of that building’s footprint into the surrounding property, said Joan Griffin, a member of the resident committee, would be bad for the wetland and possibly illegal. The resident committee added that to Cheshire Oil’s credit, the company would be updating the station’s fuel containment units with their renovations.

“It has never been that we don’t want Cheshire Oil,” said Miriam Carter, a member of the resident committee and Dublin’s Conservation Commission. “But we don’t want to accept their whole plan.”

She emphasized that while the group is opposed to Article 6 and drive-throughs in Dublin, they are not opposing Cheshire Oil’s renovations altogether, only the conflict that plans would have with Dublin’s Master Plan.

What will the town look like in 10 years, Carter asked.

“If the current zoning amendment passes, we, and others, will challenge its enforceability,” said Griffin. “If it conflicts with the Master Plan, we can take it to the appeals process and a judge would decide if it was a legal procedure.”

Freeman is also a member of the Dublin Fire Department and said that the intersection where the drive-through would go currently has a high accident rate. He is concerned that a drive-through would mean more cars entering and exiting the intersection.

Last year, Dublin police issued a statement warning commuters on Route 101 that early morning road glare makes it impossible to see drivers coming from the opposite direction. The statement came after two accidents occurred within five days of each other, both involving vehicles making a left turn into the Cheshire Oil gas station.

At their meeting Monday, the resident committee agreed that not enough research and discussion took place during the initial stages of the proposed amendment.

Suzan Macy is a current member of the Dublin Planning Board, Conservation Commission and she is one of the residents that makes up the group opposing the Article 6 amendment. Macy said she was the only board member who voted against putting the issues on the ballot.

According to Macy and the other residents, the issue was initially proposed to the Select Board members by Cheshire Oil, then turned over to the Planning Board for approval.

When asked, Charlie Champagne, chair of the Select Board, said that the board had nothing to do with the issue. He did not want to comment further.

Hayden James can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or hjames@ledgertranscript.com.

I really appreciate everything these folks are doing. Dublin is a beautiful town because of the work of its citizens to keep it this way. America is overrun with fast food and strip malls lets, preserve this little town. As the article states, this effort was iniated by Chesire Oil. We do not need oil and gas station companies writing zoning laws for our town. Propsals from the planning board should emerge from local citizens not gas station owners.

In fact, Andy Freeman does own the field where he placed the sign.

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