SCOTCH PLAINS — The zoning board of adjustment will continue its hearing next month on an application to add a drive-thru window at a Dunkin’ outlet on North Avenue.
Plainfield Gas Realty, LLC, which owns the gasoline station and Dunkin’ at 2246 North Avenue, is seeking to add the drive-thru window at the building’s rear, which faces the railroad tracks. At last Thursday’s hearing, James Turteltaub, Plainfield Gas’ attorney, said that “a lot has changed” since the board first approved the site plan for a gas station and convenience store in 2016. He noted one change is the current environment of contact-free shopping and food pickups.
Engineer and planner James Henry said the proposed window, to be situated at the southeast corner of the building, would be served by a drive-thru lane that could accommodate up to 10 vehicles with room for those who ordered in advance as well as those arriving to place an order. At present, the rear of the building is used by delivery trucks, but Mr. Henry showed renderings that included a parking area for those trucks on the east side of the property.
The property, which for many years was the home of Lou’s Gulf station and auto repair shop, was redeveloped into a new gasoline station and convenience store after the zoning board gave its approval in April 2016. A number of concerns were raised at the time by residents and board members about the pattern of traffic exiting the property as well as the effect on the adjacent house owned by Richard and Peggy de Martino. They have raised an objection to the drive-thru application and are being represented by attorney Marc Rogoff, who raised a number of questions — along with other neighborhood residents — about the effects of a drive-thru on traffic at the corner of Hetfield Avenue and North Avenue and on the Hetfield Avenue bridge.
Traffic engineer Nicholas Verderese said it was expected that the drive-thru would result in a 20-percent increase in vehicles entering and exiting the property with most of the added volume coming during the morning rush hour, which is when people typically stop for coffee en route to work and elsewhere. Several board members questioned how Hetfield Avenue traffic would be impacted if the drive-thru line was excessive and the cars were forced to snake out of the property and onto the street. Mr. Verderese said his analysis had shown that two-thirds of vehicles entering the property came from North Avenue, and he also noted that there are two northbound lanes on Hetfield Avenue near the intersection, which he said should help lessen the chances of excessive congestion into the property.
Plainfield Gas may present an alternate plan at the next hearing on Thursday, February 4, showing the drive-thru window located on the east side of the building, which would allow for a longer drive-thru lane that could handle more vehicles.
At the start of the board’s meeting, Ken Anderson was re-elected chairman for 2021 and Craig Peskin was chosen as vice-chairman.