VANDALIA — The Vandalia Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the development plan for a Dunkin Donuts restaurant on National Road on Tuesday evening. Several city residents spoke at the meeting and were unanimous in their opposition to the restaurant.
The vote forwards the recommendation on to the Vandalia City Council who will discuss the plans at its May 2 study session before taking formal action at its May 16 meeting.
While most of those opposed to the measure cited traffic, it was clear most of the opposition was centered around Vandalia’s homegrown donut shop – Jim’s Donuts. That donut shop is located just across Perry Street from where the Dunkin Donuts is proposed.
Daniel Staten brought a box of donuts from Jim’s for the commission members.
“Everybody is going to get a donut,” he said. “We don’t need another donut shop.”
Debbie Fain, who owns the building directly across National Road, concurred.
“I’m all about family business because I now own my own business,” she said.
Commission members Denny Dyer and Corey Follick voted against the measure citing traffic concerns. Members Elaine Johnson, Lori Hertlein, and Ron Atkins voted in favor.
“I’m not even really close to being able to this as a viable option,” said Dyer citing traffic concerns on National Road and Perry Street and access to the proposed site by alleys. “Traffic over the last five years has become a virtual nightmare.”
Follick agreed saying he had concerns with alley access and a plan that “almost encourages the use of the alley.”
“This site is going to be a challenging site no matter what goes on it,” he said.
The proposal would combine the lots at 34 and 42 E. National Road into one parcel and include demolition of two existing structures. The restaurant will not have an entry off of National Road but instead have two curb cuts on Perry Street. Parking and a drive thru will be in the rear of the property.
A traffic study by the developer was studied by the City Engineer and found that additional traffic during peak hours of operation will be within acceptable limits.
Pat Gilligan, whose company, Gilligan Oil Company, will own and operate the restaurant, said that the traffic study was based on the busiest hour of a week based on his company’s history.
“75 percent of our business is before 11 a.m.,” said Gilligan. “The study we submitted was based on the busiest hour out of 168 hours in a week.”
John Seagraves spoke against the proposal and suggested it would be a good fit in a different location.
“Businesses are allowed to be where businesses want to be, but there are plenty of empty lots on (U.S.) 40 east of I-75,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to create more traffic in the middle of the city.”
Kelly Rowlands, who lives at the corner of Scott and Perry, agreed.
“Perry is a narrow, narrow road, and when I turn right onto National Road I always have to wait and I’m praying no one hits me,” she said. “People use that as a way to avoid the intersection of Dixie Dr. and National Road. It’s already being used as a cut-through.”
Joe Dranschak said that he would not send the recommendation to the city council due to “too many items that don’t meat code.”
City Planner Amber Holloway noted that the developer worked with city staff to come up with a plan that both attempted to meet the city’s code but also its comprehensive plan.
“Staff believes this is a reasonable combination of the zoning code and the comprehensive plan,” said Holloway. “The comprehensive plan was reviews with every element of this proposal.”
Gilligan said that his restaurant would be a good fit for the city.
“I can see there’s a lot of personal feelings, and I respect that you have your opinions and don’t want to make this difficult,” he said. “We typically employ 10-15 people, and they will be your friends and neighbors. We will be a good neighbor – it’s what we do.”