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Parking at Proposed Dunkin' Donuts Big Concern for Zoning Board, Neighbor

Number of signs on the property also a point of contention

A proposed, is one step closer to opening on the site of a former gas station across from the front campus.

The Kent Board of Zoning Appeals voted Monday night to approve all the necessary zoning code variance requests made by the franchise doughnut shop for the small lot at the corner of East Main Street and University Drive.

The approval came following lengthy discussions over the restaurant's request for seven parking spaces and four proposed signs. The city zoning code requires a minimum 10 parking spaces for the project and permits no more than two signs.

Bare-bones parking

Ken Bloom, the franchisee who would run the shop, said unlike most Dunkin' Donuts he expects the Kent store will rely more on walk-in traffic than customers using the drive-thru or inside counter, so he doesn't believe the project needs excess parking.

"The drive-thru is critical," Bloom said. "Without a drive-thru we wouldn’t be standing before you."

Elizabeth Eaken, the project architect with , said the doughnut chain would look for another location if it didn't believe the proposed site would profit.

"They feel very confident, given the location right across from the university, there’s going to be a lot of walk-in customers as well as drive-thru business," she said.

"We’re obviously counting on a lot of foot traffic from the university," Bloom said. "If people come and there’s nowhere for them to park, we lose them as a customer. Obviously that is a concern for us."

But members of the zoning board and the property's neighbor to the north disagreed and feared employees would have nowhere to park and customers could be forced to park illegally at nearby businesses.

"I do not see how 7 parking spaces is going to cut it," said David Schumann, the owner of the rental house at 114 University Drive just north of the site. "It looks like there’s not enough adequate parking any way you dice it."

Bloom said the number of employees working at the site would range from a minimum of two during afternoons and evenings to as many as eight workers on the two or three busiest days of the week. Employees, Bloom said, would likely be told to park on nearby streets.

Zoning board member Dave Mail, like all four of the zoning members present, said he also was worried about granting the variance to allow just seven parking spaces.

"The limitations on his parking, the primary downside of that is on his business," Mail said. "That’s a risk he’s taking."

The board approved the variance request to allow just seven parking spaces by a vote of 3-1. Zoning board chair Elizabeth Howard cast the only vote against the variance.

"My suspicion is that if there’s no parking and the patron really wants a donut, that they will park in Wendy’s lot and walk over … or they’ll park in the Burger King and walk over," Howard said. "I suspect that those two businesses will have much more difficulty than maybe the (residents) on University Drive."

Too many signs

What some zoning board members called an "artistic" design of one of the doughnut shop's signs received a lot of positive feedback, but in the end the proposed Dunkin' Donuts had too many signs for the board's liking.

Kent's zoning code permits two signs for the project, and that includes the drive-thru menu board.

The project had five proposed signs, but members of the zoning board voted to allow four signs. After some talk, the zoning board eventually voted to not allow a four-color sign on the building side facing east.

The board voted to allow: the pilon street sign near East Main Street; the main building sign that reads "Dunkin' Donuts"; a sign of a coffee cup silhouette; and the drive-through menu board.

The board did grant the final variance request regarding the cup silhouette sign — which several board members called artistic in appearance — that allows the 194 square-foot sign to exceed the maximum 100 square-foot size.

"I suppose I can live with it even though it is very big,” Howard said. “I completely agree the one on University (Drive) has got to go."

'Afghani airport tower'

The proposed two-story design for Kent varies greatly from the usual design of the doughnut chain's stores.

Eaken, a Kent resident and the project architect, said she was allowed much more creative control from the business given the lot they are working with is smaller than the typical Dunkin' Donuts property.

"Having done several Dunkin' Donuts and franchise type projects they have a standard, cookie-cutter look," she said. "Because it’s a small site we got to get a little of our creative juices flowing. I’m excited as a Kent resident to see this neat little project go on the property."

The plan calls for a 3,111 square foot building with operations, restrooms and seating on the first floor and additional seating only on the second floor.

Bloom said they asked the architecture firm to create a design that would fit well in a college town.

"We’re really pleased with the way it turned out," he said.

The actual building design garnered few comments from the zoning board — except for Mail, who likened the design to that of an airport control tower in Afghanistan.

"It looks like an Afghani airport tower," Mail said.

Groundbreaking pending

Dunkin' Donuts initially asked for seven variances from the zoning board but withdrew one request mid-meeting Monday. The board approved all six other requests.

The proposal still has to go to the Kent Planning Commission for site plan approval. The planning commission will vote on the site plan in July.

Bloom said he doesn't have a firm timeline for construction and opening yet if the commission approves the project.

"We’d love to be able to break ground this year," he said.

Paxton Crenshaw May 22, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Hey Chris "Kit" - why make this political? By your standards, I assume you must be a Democrat... and ask that you please try to be a little more "Republican" in your posts.
Cy May 22, 2012 at 02:57 PM
The mockups of the building are included in the story. If it does resemble an airport tower, then why not just say so? The use of "Afghani" was obviously pejorative. It has nothing to do with political party.
Joseph Hughes May 22, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Yeah, what does this have to do with political party?
Laurel Myers Hurst May 22, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Joseph and Cy: Do we know for certain that Mail isn't a vet who has seen Kabul Airport up close and personally, and that it is possibly the airport tower with which he is most familiar? J: IMHO, your litany of racial slurs is far more offensive than the original comment (for which we don't know the background). Sarah: I'm so glad the commission did nit-pick. Their job is to make sure that development in Kent is a welcome addition.
Laurel Myers Hurst May 22, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Are you actually saying, "I'd like to see a street maintainance commission that would diligently work on behalf of citizens for better street conditions?"
Chris (Kit) Myers May 22, 2012 at 03:18 PM
No, Mr. Paxton, I abandoned unquestioning loyalty to the republican party many, many years ago, and finally identified myself as an independent voter. I am basically still of a conservative nature but am far from being a right-winger. It just really bothers me that someone calls a person an imbecile when knowing little or nothing about that person. By the way, I did not refer to all democrats as being uncivil.
Paxton Crenshaw May 22, 2012 at 03:20 PM
whatevs...
Brian May 22, 2012 at 03:22 PM
"Have the critics of Mr. Mail seen any plans for the building?" Yes, they are in the photos accompanying this article. The comment made by Mr. Mail was inappropriate whether one likes or dislikes the look of the building. I have attended a number of BZA meetings and am always discouraged when comments such as these are made by board members or citizens. I think it is FABULOUS that DD is coming into town and will attempt to limit my donut intake to no more than 3 per week.
Laurel Myers Hurst May 22, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Off topic: ...but you strongly implied that, based on incivility, the commenter was probably not an Independent or Republican. That would lead us to believe you assumed the "uncivil" commenter was something else (i.e. Democrat, Socialist, Green Party, Tea Party, Communist, etc.). This story has nothing to do with political party, and I am disappointed that the commenters assume Mail is a racist because he made a geographic association. I believe that to be ridiculous. If I said a garden in Kent looked like a Chinese garden, would someone assume I was a racist?
Joseph Hughes May 22, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Are you saying I was being racist? This is what I said: Would we want them saying insensitive phrases like "Chinese fire drill" or "Indian giver"? Note the use of "insensitive phrases" and my asking if that's the kind of thing we'd want our officials saying (and the answer to that, of course, is "no"). And no, we don't know for sure if Mail is a vet or not. Perhaps he should clarify this. Perhaps the reporter could have done some reporting and asked him.
Gina Corron May 22, 2012 at 03:29 PM
The first thing that comes to my mind over this proposed project is, I will see more litter with the Dunkin' Donuts logo on it filtering down route 59 and not just the other conglomerate food chains'.
Cy May 22, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Since Kit commented, I've been thinking about this notion of civility. And I would like to add that there is a difference between stating your opinion on something that someone actually said or did (e.g., saying an action or comment shows stupidity) and making a disparaging comment about an entire group of people or country. If we are being uncivil by doing the former, then surely Mr. Mail is being uncivil by doing the latter.
Cy May 22, 2012 at 03:44 PM
@Laurel, Obviously, not every reference to race or culture or nationality is insulting. Let's not be ridiculous with the "Chinese Garden" example. If you were saying you disliked the garden, and used "Chinese" in the pejorative, then it would at least be considered insensitive. The way the story is reported it seems as though Mr. Mail was using Afghani as an insult. The context here matters and, as Joseph said, the reporter should have realized this an done a better job of clarifying his comments.
Gary Michaels May 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
This is ignorant. The board of zoning are appointed citizens specific to zoning, not elected officials that would deal with road issues.
Gary Michaels May 22, 2012 at 04:48 PM
If Mr. Mail's intent was to make people lose sight of the fact the zoning board set a dangerous precedent by allowing an overbuilt structure that breaks 6 different zoning codes, he has succeeded. It's disappointing that we are dissecting an offhand comment and not looking at the decision they thought out. These zoning rules are set in place for a reason, one would think. So what's the point if we're just going to allow anything that's proposed? Now that they have set a precedent that businesses can have 4 signs and not 2, what's stopping everyone else? What if a coffee drive-thru wants to use the old Robin Hood land? Can their building go right up to the sidewalk? Do they not need ample parking? How can a business staff 8 employees and provide 7 parking spaces? The list of questions that are relevant to the future of our city is lengthy. But let's focus on if Mr. Mail has travelled outside the country. Unbelievable. Well, actually, sadly predictable.
Linda UmBayemake May 22, 2012 at 04:54 PM
The city will regret not following the ordinance of ten parking places. One when the students are here it is crowded, unless someone thought parking tickents and towing would let some people make a little money. Wreaks that will make others some money. Why are they trying to squeeze a building in a small area, oh yeah money. Despite the negatives which plenty abound. The ones who are suppose to make logical decisions for the betterment of our community just jump on dumb train. I hope you got paid under the table for this one, nothing else makes sense.
Paxton Crenshaw May 22, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Every been to OSU? Most restaurants on High St. don't even have parking spaces, same thing goes most eateries in big cities. Those of you cackling about the lack of parking spaces are probably the same ones who yelp about how un-pedestrian- friendly our city is. Walk, bike, park on the street or don't patronize the business.
Gary Michaels May 22, 2012 at 05:36 PM
So you're trying to tell me the City of Columbus would allow something like this? You have no idea what you're talking about. Big difference between a rehab in an existing downtown and building something from the ground up. 7 spaces, 8 employees. That's all you need to know.
Paxton Crenshaw May 22, 2012 at 06:00 PM
in most locales, employers are not, by law, required to provide their employees parking spaces - that's all you need to know.
Pat May 22, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I think Duncan Donuts should be prohibed from building on such a small lot and they must stand their ground and demand that the 10 spaces must remain. The liter all over a pretty city is brought there by messy students. People have no pride in their neighborhoods any more. Tell Duncan Donuts to find another lot to build.
Troy McClure May 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Yeah, you tell Dunkin Donuts: Go find another lot to build. In another city. While a long-abandoned, eye sore remains. And another city enjoys the new income ($$ from taxes) the city will get that Kent won't. You're a freaking brainiac.
Rick May 22, 2012 at 09:21 PM
well problem is all seven parking spaces will be taken up by the kent police cars wont be any room for people who want a doughnut and drive by
Jim Williams May 23, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Seems to me that this company has come in with a reasonable request, which, at worst, will only really affect their bottom line. The commission did well in limiting signs and considering the potential issues with parking, and made an informed decision. A good compromise is a better end than a derelict gas station. (full disclosure, I park in the Rockwell lot for work, and will likely be inconvenienced by non-permit holding donut lovers) Sure, there are lots of alternatives available, but I don't see anyone else whipping out their checkbook or running for a post on the zoning commission (but someone should, since Mr. Mail is tone deaf and a little coarse for the job).
Chris (Kit) Myers May 23, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Mr. Mail is "tone deaf?"
Troy McClure May 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Wow. What an original comment. Are you 12? Or a criminal, hence your ridiculously stupid comment. And, I'm sure the police are in hell of a lot better shape than you are.
Paxton Crenshaw May 23, 2012 at 12:47 PM
"are you 12?" - somewhat ironic coming from someone who chose a simpsons character for their patch user name.
Jim Williams May 23, 2012 at 04:25 PM
It's a euphemism for saying something that can be taken to be offensive or off-color.
Laurel Myers Hurst May 23, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I still can't get around the fact that so many people assume use of the word "Afghani" to describe an airport tower is definitely a negative slur. I don't know why anyone would assume the term "Afghani" means something negative. The Patch article doesn't say, ""It looks like an Afghani airport tower," Mail said snidely."
Laurel Myers Hurst May 23, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Agreed. If the reporter is trying to "out" Mr. Mail as a racist, he left too much to the imagination.
Laurel Myers Hurst May 23, 2012 at 06:25 PM
A relatively new (21st century) euphemism, I believe; as a voice teacher, I think it is a quite distateful "euphemism." I don't like to see genetic or accident-related disabilities used as descriptors for bad behavior.

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