The Dunkin' Donuts planned for East Main Street could be open by this time next year.
The Kent Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 Monday to grant a 17.5 foot variance from the city's 20-foot front yard landscaping strip requirement to allow a parking space to be 2.5 feet from the front property line on University Drive.
Ken Bloom, the franchisee who will run the shop, said they haven't closed yet on the two properties needed for construction: 525 E. Main St. and 114 University Drive.
"But we’re anticipating closing by the end of the year on both," Bloom said. "If all goes as planned … in a perfect world we’d like to be in position to break ground when the snow breaks."
Construction could start as early as January or, the latest, April with a 90 day to 120 day construction period.
Monday's zoning board approval came with opposition from a neighbor.
Sally Burnell, a tenant at 114 University Drive, said she is one of five tenants who will be evicted so the house can be demolished to make room for the new Dunkin' Donuts.
But that's not the only reason Burnell opposed the project. She also pointed to the neighboring businesses, which also have drive-thru windoes, and suggested a third drive-thru would lead to increased traffic congestion and a potentially dangerous situation for drivers.
Several of the zoning board members said they sympathized with Burnell's situation.
"But the owner has made a decision to sell the house," zoning board member Paul Sellman said. "And that is not the matter of this variance."
Zoning board member Steve Balazs said he agreed with Burnell on the potential for drive-thru traffic congestion.
"I think it’s going to create problems," he said. "It’s a public safety issue in my opinion."
Balazs, though, voted to approve the variance with Sellman and zoning board member Dave Mail. Chairperson Elizabeth Howard voted against issuing the ordinance.
The project and initial site plan was approved by the zoning board and Kent Planning commission earlier this summer, but the addition of the house led to expanding the site plan, which must go back to the planning commission for approval.
The revised site plan and building design already has gone before the Kent Architectural Review Board.
Bloom said the new site plan, which allows for a more rectangular-shaped building, will make for a more efficient drive-thru.
"We had an opportunity to acquire that property to make an acceptable site plan into a better site plan," he said.