LEWISTON — Despite concerns from neighbors over its impact on traffic and pedestrian safety, the City Council approved changes Tuesday that could make way for a new Dunkin’ at 420 Main St.

The traffic changes will eliminate parking on the west side of Main Street between Elm and Curtis streets and add a center turning lane on Main Street for the business, which would be relocating from 319 Main St., across from Central Maine Medical Center.

Developer Normand Boulay argued the business has long outgrown its location and that the new location would be safer for employees and customers. But neighbors and nearby business owners say the move would exacerbate issues in an area that is mostly residential.

Kathleen Kienitz, a Main Street business owner, told councilors that she prepared a petition to submit to the Planning Board to have the nearby zoning changed. She argued that the area was largely residential and that a Dunkin’ is not in the character of the neighborhood.

She and a number of other neighbors called on the council to table the vote.

Boulay, who owns four Dunkin’ Donuts locations, first came to city officials last fall with a proposal to relocate the business to a vacant lot at Main and Whipple streets. The business, he said, would be one of the chain’s “next generation” stores, with two drive-through lanes, one for mobile orders.

He told the council that the drive-through at its current Main Street location frequently backs up into Main Street.

Councilors supported the traffic changes Tuesday, arguing that it was just a first step in the process. It will now move on to the Planning Board for a site plan review, which will likely include a traffic study.

Approval by the council came with a number of conditions, including that the associated traffic improvements be paid for by Boulay.

In order for traffic to flow in and out of the popular chain, the concept plan calls for an extension of a three-lane section on Main Street, between Elm and Curtis streets, to accommodate the traffic movements, which would require eliminating eight on-street parking spaces in that stretch.

On Whipple Street, the current proposal would widen the road by 8 feet, relocating the sidewalk to start west of the intersection of Main Street. That intersection has been identified by the Maine Department of Transportation as a high crash location.

Boulay said he’s been working for more than a year to arrive at a solution with neighbors, but that some “people don’t want to hear what we have to say.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of misconceptions about our plan,” he said Tuesday. “We’re trying to address safety concerns that are already there.”

John Dupris, who owns the land at 420 Main St., told the council: “It’s time for something to happen there. He told the neighbors, “You should have bought the land, and made some parking.”

Many neighbors described the area as unsafe and unpleasant for pedestrians.

Rachel Swanson said moving “more congestion into a residential area is going to cause an unsafe place for families that live there.”

Nancy Cole told councilors that “putting a high-volume business into a residential area is going to create more problems than already exist.”

Councilor Jim Lysen told the neighbors that he wants to see a full traffic study so that the safety concerns can be addressed. That means approving the traffic changes and sending them to the Planning Board for a site review, he said.

“If we don’t do this, we won’t see a traffic study,” he said. “This is a hard decision one way or the other. I trust the Planning Board is going to make the right call.”


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