PITTSFIELD -- The Community Development Board is recommending against granting a special permit for a Dunkin' Donuts restaurant at First and Fenn streets.
Citing traffic concerns it might cause, the board voted 3-1 against the permit for a drive-thru operation for the business, which would be at the site of the former Plunkett School building. The school would be razed as part of the project.
The recommendation will now go before the City Council.
The council, which could accept or reject the board's recommendation, is expected to take up the special permit later this month. For it to be approved, eight of 11 councilors would have to vote yes.
Cafua Management Co. of Andover, which owns the Dunkin' Donuts franchise further south on First Street and others in the city, is proposing the doughnut shop and additional retail space on the lot. It would replace the existing Dunkin' Donuts on First Street, which has been the target of complaints about traffic backing up into the street from people using the drive-thru lane.
James Scalise of SK Design Group Inc., the project designer, made a presentation to the board. He said traffic studies have shown that the impact of the business would not be great at the intersection.
The drive-thru lane would enter from Fenn Street, according to the plan, and there would be space for a line of up to 13 vehicles, which Scalise said is much higher than the typical line of up to six vehicles.
Board members did, however, express concerns about the impact on traffic at First and Fenn streets, and about whether the project fit with a city master plan goal of reducing vehicle-related development downtown. The long-standing issue of whether the former school building should be renovated rather than demolished also was raised.
The city Historical Commission in May 2012 called for a six-month delay in development of the .84-acre site with the hope a developer interested in renovating the school building would step forward.
Scalise added that the school site -- located near The Common -- would have landscaping in place of hard surfaces and that would lessen storm runoff problems. He said it would provide an area pedestrians at The Common could walk to.
The school, opened in 1909, was closed in 1977. Forer Development Co. of New York City, a stationery and greeting card firm, then purchased it from the city. That business closed in 1987 and the building has been for sale.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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