October 18, 2021
Local News

Geneva Dunkin' gets drive-thru approval – barely

Mayor breaks 5-5 split vote on special use zoning

GENEVA – The Geneva City Council narrowly approved a special use zoning Nov. 19 to allow a drive-thru restaurant at a proposed Dunkin' Donuts on the city's east side.

Aldermen voted 5-5 and Mayor Kevin Burns voted yes, breaking the tie vote.

The donut shop, at 206, E. State St., is owned by Raj Patel of The Hari Group.

The drive-thru would feature an inside lane and an “on-the-go” ordering system on the outside lane where customers prepay for orders using a mobile application, officials said.

This summer, when aldermen approved a development incentive package for Dunkin' Donuts with a $70,000 grant and a sales tax rebate up to $102,000, there was an outcry that such support was an unfair advantage that would put an independent store, Fresh Donuts, out of business.

But the issue this time had to do with traffic, left turns and squawk box noise impacting nearby residential neighborhoods.

Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Swanson said with 65 percent of the Dunkin’ Donuts traffic going east, that meant 35 percent are coming from the opposite direction.

“We are going to be increasing the number of cars trying to turn left to a site that is already challenged from a traffic standpoint,” Swanson said. “We are making a difficult intersection even worse.”

Community Development Director David DeGroot said the state will be putting in a protected left turn lane in about two years.

Fifth Ward Alderman Craig Maladra described it as putting “more than five pounds of traffic in a five-pound bag.”

“I don’t believe a drive-thru belongs in residential neighborhoods,” Maladra said.

But Bill Grieve, who authored the traffic study for the Dunkin’ Donuts, said 65 percent of the restaurant’s business is done by 11 a.m.

“From my standpoint of moving traffic in and out, this might be one of the best sites I’ve ever seen for Dunkin’ Donuts,” Grieve said. “Two-thirds of the traffic is heading eastbound on State in the morning. They are coming in, making a right-turn in … and making a right-turn out.”

Grieve said the double drive-through is not doubling up traffic. The squawk box will have fewer cars and fewer people talking into it because the extra lane is for those who will use a Dunkin’ Donuts application for their phones.

Jessica Portzer, the construction manager for the project, said people using the app on their mobile device will pay at the same time they place their order.

“So there isn’t a step where they have to stop and pay,” Portzer said. “They’re just going straight up to the window, so they’re bypassing other customers who are waiting to order.”

Swanson called upon other city council members to vote against the special use, saying the applicant has not met all nine conditions as required by the city’s ordinance.

Voting yes were 1st Ward Alderman Michael Bruno, 2nd Ward Alderman Richard Marks, 3rd Ward Alderman Becky Hruby and 4th Ward Aldermen James Radecki and Jeanne McGowan.

Voting no were Maladra, Swanson, 1st Ward Alderman Tara Burghart, 2nd Ward Alderman Michael Clements and 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg.

The split vote also involved approval for landscaping and and off-street parking relief in order to develop the property, a former gas station that has been vacant since 2014.

Strict application of the code would not allow for the required number of parking spaces on the site, officials said.

Dunkin’ owners propose to use the existing building and plan to add a walk-in freezer/cooler and entrance vestibule in addition to the drive-thru, records show.