Plan for gas station redo greeted with considerable skepticism
By Kevin E. Foley
The proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/convenience store transformation for the Elmesco Citgo Inc., gasoline and auto repair operation on Chestnut Street ran into some early rough weather at a Cold Spring Planning Board workshop meeting last week (April 17). Chairman Joseph Barbaro began the session expressing his carefully articulated reservations about the impact the change would have on the village. Other board members who either shared his concerns or had others to varying degrees joined him.
“I am skeptical,” pronounced Barbaro, as he recited his four principal concerns with the project. “First, there is the inconvenient truth of the Comprehensive Plan/Local Waterfront Revitalization.” Barbaro said that while the plan, which must be taken into account in appraising any project, did not exactly say, “thou shall not build a Dunkin’ Donuts, there is enough there to make us think about it a little more, perhaps even hesitate, maybe more than hesitate.”
Second, Barbaro said he was concerned about precedent. He said he thought Dunkin’ Donuts made a fine product, mentioning he recently bought a dozen for his office in Manhattan, “and they were as good as ever.” But he asked Elmes rhetorically what if the other gas station in town at the corner of Main Street and Morris Avenue wanted to put in a Burger King. Or if a Pizza Hut was proposed for next to the Elmesco gas station or another franchise operation was also proposed for the Butterfield retail component.
The effect on local businesses was Barbaro’s third issue. “Usually I am a free-market, laissez-faire entrepreneurial man. Let the best man or woman win. On Main Street I think you have that competition. But Dunkin’ Donuts is a big corporation—that’s a different playing field and I think we have to take that into consideration,” he said.
Finally, Barbaro made clear the regard he and many in the community hold for Elmes himself. “You are a great guy; everybody trusts you,” said Barbaro likening Elmes to a village doctor because of the many vehicles he has kept on the road over decades. “But what if you sold to someone else? We have to be objective about the project, that is our solemn duty to the public,” said Barbaro. “I am keeping an open mind, I am just skeptical, Barbaro concluded.
The details of the operational plans of the proposal came into focus through questioning by Board Member Dick Weissbrod. The Dunkin’ Donuts franchise would be owned and run by Paul Sardinta, who currently has three other operations in northern Westchester. Two of them have Baskin-Robbins ice cream as well, but that addition is not contemplated in the current application.
The Dunkin’ Donuts, the convenience store and the gasoline station (both owned by Elmes) would be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The gasoline operation would revert to self-service. Sardinta said experience indicated the morning drive time, 6 a.m.–9 a.m., would be the busiest period for his side of the business. Elmes would still own the building but the lease agreement with Dunkin’ Donuts involves a 15-20 year lien on the property.
Weissbrod said his research suggested Dunkin’ Donuts was capable of different looks for its stores than the one currently being offered. He said he thought for the application to gain approval a major factor would have to be a store design consistent with the look of the village. He said he found a Dunkin’ Donuts online in Florence, Italy, that resembled Cold Spring’s Main Street. Weissbrod, who conceded the store’s look would ultimately be up to the Historic District Review Board, said he had the same feeling about the drive-thru component. “The bank has one (referring to M&T across Chestnut), it’s not a major sin, it’s what they look like that matters.”
Member Arnie Saari, pushing back on Barbaro’s reasoning, suggested the presence of Foodtown, Drug World, Frozenberry and Sunoco gasoline demonstrated that chain or franchise operations were already acceptable to the village. He said his reading of the new Comprehensive Plan didn’t render a clear outright objection to an operation such as Dunkin’ Donuts. Saari further questioned whether the board had the authority to reject an application on the basis of the term “franchise.” He requested the Planning Board ask the village attorney for an opinion on what authority the board had to address an application in this way. “Current village law doesn’t address franchises. I assume Kenny’s doughnuts would be acceptable. If the village intent is to not accept franchises, the Village Board should decide that,” he said. Saari also said he remained concerned about the plan’s approach to safety, water drainage, parking, and the impact on traffic.
Newest member Jimmy Zuehl said he agreed with many of the comments his colleagues had made. He emphasized that while he wanted to follow the Comprehensive Plan strictly, he too found the language somewhat vague on the subject of franchises. He referred to section 4.1.6 of the plan which reads: “Recommendation: Within the village set limits to prohibit ‘big box’ stores and limit stores from large chains. Ensure franchise/formula businesses are compatible with the character of the village.” Zuehl also found the drive-thru for car pick up of doughnuts and coffee troublesome. He said that made for a site “even more about cars and less about walking.”
The traffic issue was put into historical perspective by life-long resident and long-serving board member Parge Sgro, who considers it the biggest concern. “We already have a problem at Benedict Street and 9D (Chestnut),” he said citing the Drug World mini-mall next to the Foodtown Plaza with the M&T Bank on the opposite side of 9D. Sgro pointed out most if not all the land parcels in this vicinity were generally non-conforming with village code as they were divided and developed before there was a code. “If they were conforming, there would be sufficient parking. Now we’re trying to make something that is conforming,” he said referring to Elmesco.
Saari suggested, and the board agreed, to ask the applicant to provide a traffic study for the operation. Elmes has often maintained there will not be more traffic than his service station has generated for years. When Barbaro asked Elmes if he could do without the drive-thru, he had Sardinta answer. “Sixty percent of the business is drive-thru, women with children, handicapped, people who just don’t want to stop, bad weather,” he said.
“It seems to me it benefits commuters from Poughkeepsie going to northern New Jersey,” said Barbaro. Barbaro said he would ask the village attorney for an opinion on franchises and the Comprehensive Plan as discussed and then the applicant would be asked to provide the traffic study. He also requested that details regarding the operation of the stores and the gas sales be provided in writing. He said a formal detailed site plan review would begin when the board felt it was inclined to otherwise approve — “we’re not there yet.”
Photos by K.E.Foley, except as noted
Thank you Kevin for the coverage. There are a couple things I would like to add. After the meeting I encouraged the planning board to add to their request for a traffic study that it needs to be tied to the five year sales projections of the franchisee. During the meeting Kenny told the planning board that at his highest he had about forty garage customers- making 80 trips in and out. He estimated that the Dunkin Donuts traffic would be lower. Well, back of the envelope- 80 DD customers spending an average of $5.00 each is about $400 in daily ales. Maybe a third of that is product cost, leaving about $8000 a month for salaries, rent, other overhead and profits. Sounds like a losing proposition. My guess is that 80 customers a day is not even close to the real anticipated sales, and thus traffic. Add that to the estimate that 60% of the sales are expected to be through the drive through between the hours of 6am and 9am. It all sounds like a royal traffic mess.
If a Dunkin’ Donuts were to open, will the village and its citizens need to spend scarce funds to widen doorways in public buildings and residences to accommodate the “expanding population”?
Seriously though, if a high volume drive through operation like Dunkin’ Donuts receives approval, it will most certainly result in traffic flow disruptions and resulting accidents. Most disturbing is the potential for showdowns between cars and pedestrians where the car usually wins.
There are a number of reasons to be concerned about the Dunkin’ Donuts proposal for the Elmsco gas station. You need look no further than the Dunkin’ Donuts/Gas Sation/Convenience Store on the northbound side of Route 9 in Fishkill (just south of Route 52) to see what kind of traffic snarl you could end up with.
But ….. the fact that Dunkin’ Donuts is a franchise is a non-starter. Why? Because the Planning Board opened that door when they permitted Moo Moo’s Creamery to open on West Street, at the waterfront. So far as we know, that is a franchise. And if that is the case, then the Planning Board – wittingly or not – has lost that argument.
Dick Weissbrod needn’t go as far as Florence, Italy, for a different look for Dunkin’ Donuts. There is a lovely DD just off of Route 84, east of Hartford, that looks like a typical New England clapboard house. (I’ll see if I can find the name of the town, but it should be easy enough to find. It’s still in Connecticut.)
I can’t understand for the life of me what the “franchise” argument can be. I was born in Peekskill Hospital and brought home to Cold Spring, where I have lived with the three generations of Landolfi’s who came before me, and some still do, live. I say “some” because my grandfather and great grandfather are unfortunately no longer with us.
In case anyone reading this doesn’t recall, or didnt even know there was a village 50 miles north of NYC named Cold Spring, way before Foodtown(franchise) came to town there was Grand Union(franchise) that existed here, and I don’t recall but have been told that A&P(franchise) was here before Grand Union. Even back then when we all got our gas at EXXON(franchise) or MOBILE(franchise), and we did our banking at M& T(franchise) or Fishkill National Bank(franchise) or now Wells Fargo(franchise), there were franchises in Cold Spring. Today Exxon and Mobile aren’t here but Citgo(franchise) and Sunoco(franchise) are! In case anyone doesns’t realize it but Frozenbeery and allegedly Moo Moo’s Creamery are also franchises.
Obviously, the point being is there are franchises here in Cold Spring, so the planning board or anyone else shouldn’t even attempt to use that as an excuse to say no to Dunkin Doughnuts!
I have heard of some negativity towards this project, but only by the reporting in the local paper and on this website. Everyone I know and talk to think it is a wonderful idea! Rest assured as a life long resident of this beloved village I would welcome Dunkin Doughnuts with open arms, and I’m pretty sure my two children would too!!!!
I’m pretty sure the United States of America would call that Capitalism!!!
If you don’t like Dunkin Doughnuts don’t go there!!
It is only the formula restaurants which are being referenced as examples of what we may not want-so let’s not loosely toss around the term “franchise” or “chain” as they are meaningless in this context.
For example- from another New York Village:
A Formula Fast-Food Restaurant is defined under §
170-13(C) of the Village’s Code as follows:
“Formula Fast-Food Restaurant
[***433] Any establishment, required by contract,
franchise or other arrangements, to offer two or more of
[I] Standardized menus, ingredients, food preparation
[ii] Prepared food in ready to consume state.
[iii] Food sold over the counter in disposable
containers and wrappers.
[iv] Food selected from a limited menu.
[v] Food sold for immediate consumption on or off
[vi] Where customer pays before eating.”
When enacting a formula business ordinance, a Village should articulate within the ordinance and its legislative history the public purposes the law will serve and specify how the restrictions will fulfill those purposes. The ordinance should reference the comprehensive plan, identifying goals within the plan that a formula business restriction will help to fulfill. These commonly include:
*Maintaining the unique character of the community and the appeal of its commercial district
*Protecting the community’s economic vitality by ensuring a diversity of businesses with sufficient opportunities for independent entrepreneurs
*Fostering businesses that serve the basic needs of the surrounding neighborhood, rather than those oriented toward tourists or regional shoppers.
Indeed there was an A&P store and it was located in the parking lot next to the chinese restaurant. For that matter, the Fishkill National Bank was located next to the village office, and the Grand Union next to the bank. Many years ago, there were stores on Main Street that did serve the needs of the community. There was a hardware store, clothing store, shoe store, butcher shop, and many, many more.
Unfortunately for your argument, Frozenberry and Moo Moo’s aren’t franchises. They are just as unique to Cold Spring as the Foundry or Country Goose or Cathryn’s. Don’t take my word for it. Google them. Or ask the owners, who are pretty proud of what they created.
As Judith wrote, they problem isn’t franchise or even chain. The problem is “formula businesses.” It is a problem because we don’t care to live in a formula village. Most places in this country already look like most other places, down to the same Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Wall-marts. The small town I grew up in in Ohio looks like that now. So does Wappingers and Fishkill.
Capitalism does allow free enterprise, but always within limits. It is up to us to define those limits.
What do Key West, East Hampton, and Manchester (VT) have in common? Dunkin Donuts! The franchise argument is a mute point. There is a Frozenberry in Fishkill. Is a DD going to open the floodgates for McDonalds?! I don’t think anyone should lose any sleep over that. Didn’t the village have to allow Drug World to put up their ugly back lit sign or they wouldn’t move in? I don’t see CVS or Rite Aid banging down the door to open. Did you know the high school kids drive up to Fishkill to get DD during lunch? Many people commute up and down 9D that never stop. I bet Foodtown and Main Course will see more business with people stopping. And cars aren’t already stopping to get gas the way it is right now? My vote is yes!
Oh no, stop the presses Aaron — Frozenberry has a store in Fishkill now. So much for your “unique”-to-Cold Spring statement. I guess they are a chain now and we should close the doors here in Cold Spring.
Kenny cannot afford to keep the location as a repair shop. It is going to turn into something. Anyone go to Kenny with their own proposal for what they want to do instead? Anyone want to step up and take over the garage? Now’s your chance!
Terms like “Formula Business Ban” give me flashback’s to Orwell’s “1984.”
Formula Business Ban is double-speak for “we don’t want your business here.”
I’ve said it before, that’s not the way capitalism works. In fact, I believe Mr. Landolfi did a fine job of showing how businesses, mom and pops and franchises alike, have come and gone throughout the history of Cold Spring.
It’s up to the market to decide what businesses thrive or fail; not the planning board.
A laundramat or the Post Office would fit in very nicely.
One of the big reasons that my family moved to Cold Spring was to escape from the sickening homogenized commercial blight of the endless Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Wendys, McDonalds, etc. that have robbed so many communities of their uniqueness and beauty. I would hope that as a community, we would have the wisdom to see that the lack of these establishments has great appeal, and is in keeping with the authentic character and timeless charm of Cold Spring. I vote yes for restricting the development of large corporate formula restaurants in the village that will turn Cold Spring into Anywhere, USA.
A Dunkin Donuts, , Mickey D’s or a Wendy’s does not make a village or a community “unique” or special. The people who live here is what makes it special. Maybe that is what brought such an influx of new comers to Cold Spring over the last 10-15 years.
I remember when it didn’t matter if you just moved here or if you were a 3rd generation “Cold Springer” everyone got along. There wasn’t any of the dissension that exists here today.
I say bring on Dunkin Donuts! It will not only save some of us some money because now we don’t have to drive to Fishkill or Beacon to get a dozen donuts on the weekend for a little treat, but with a drive thru it will also be quite convenient to a parent with children in a car seat, or to the elderly, or even the lazy, who just don’t feel like getting out of their car on a rainy, or cold day for a cup of “joe”.