P&Z rejects plan for new Bridgeport Avenue Dunkin' Donuts

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at its Oct. 18 meeting rejected by a 6-1 vote a plan to construct a Dunkin’ Donuts on a vacant 0.6-acre parcel at 364 Bridgeport Ave.

City Planner David B. Sulkis told the board that it could not approve the special permit and site plan review because the application did not meet the requirements of the board’s regulations. Sulkis said the only part of the regulations the board can waive is required number of parking spaces.

In making the presentation, Attorney Joseph Porto told the board that business owner Frank D’Andrea owns more than a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts in the Milford-West Haven area. Porto said the intent was to develop the 0.6-acre property at 364 Bridgeport Ave., formerly the location of a now demolished gas station, which Porto labeled an “eyesore.”

As part of the application, Porto submitted a request to change the zone from Corridor Design Development District 2 (CDD-2) to Corridor Design Development District 3 (CDD-3) for the properties from 364 to 388 Bridgeport Ave., extending the zone to the I-95 Exit 34 ramps. The board also denied that zone change request by a 6-1 vote.

Porto requested the change because drive-ins are prohibited in the CDD-2 zone, but drive-ins and drive-thrus are permitted in the CDD-3 zone, a zone that also permits fast food restaurants.

Landscape Architect Jeffrey Gordon said when the Dunkin’ Donuts that D’Andrea owns at 367 Bridgeport Ave. was constructed in 1999, the Connecticut Department of Transportation denied a request to allow a drive-thru, expressing concern that cars would back onto Cleveland Avenue.

Gordon said the project at 364 Bridgeport Ave. would have 17 parking spaces in front for patrons and nine at the rear for employees with the spaces accessed using the drive-thru lanes.

Referring to a similar design for the Dunkin’ Donuts at 275 Boston Post Road at the corner of West Clark Street that D’Andrea also owns, Gordon said, “It doesn’t pose a problem on West Clark Street and I don’t believe it would pose a problem here.”

Gordon said the project would have landscaping around the parking area, and a fence at the rear to screen the property from the neighboring houses at the rear. He said the appearance would be similar to a Dunkin’ Donuts that D’Andrea built in 2015 on Captain Thomas Boulevard in West Haven, except this building would have wainscoting of brick at the bottom.

Sulkis had extensive criticism for the proposal, which he said did not conform to the zoning regulations in several areas. Referring to the West Clark Street Dunkin’ Donuts, which a previous board approved at its Sept. 4, 2007 meeting, Sulkis said he advised the board to reject that application, saying, “It was a bad design,” adding, “That was a pretty good design compared to this one.”

Sulkis said he did not certify the current application as complying with the zoning regulations because he said it does not meet the CDD-3 regulations. He said the project does not meet requirements for a 20-foot front yard setback, does not comply with the street frontage requirements on Bridgeport Avenue and Cowles Street, and does not have the required rear landscaping. He said the project lacks the required 10 percent landscaping and does not have any trees in the parking lot.

Sulkis said the proposal has cueing spaces in the drive-thru lane that are 15 feet long, as compared to the required 18 feet, has insufficient parking, in part because the cuing spaces are counted as parking spaces, and has blocked parking spaces at the rear, while the regulations require parking spaces to remain open.

“You can’t get access to the rear lot without going through the drive-thru,” said Sulkis.

The board had previously approved a 10-unit condominium project for the site at its April 15, 2008 meeting on behalf of the then applicant Post Road Commons LLC, but that company sold the property in 2009 to Two Ninety-Six LLC, which in turn sold the property to the current owner, Bridgeport Empire LLC for $363,000 on Dec. 13, 2011, The LLC lists Kerrim and Khairunnisa Jivani of Milford as members,

D’Andrea had an option to purchase the property if the P&Z approved the proposal. Gordon said that option expires by the end of October.

Gordon said the property’s past use as a gasoline station made it difficult to use the property for residential use. He said Phase I, II, and III environmental testing have been done on the property.

“The area is ripe with non-conformities. We are minimizing them,” said Gordon. “I think this is as good as you are going to get on this property.”

The project drew one favorable comment and had no opposition from the public. Mark Glassman, owner of a small shopping center at 461 Bridgeport Ave., said, “The property is an eyesore. It prevents people from renting other properties. I have two vacancies. It cleans up what’s there. I think this is a really good use.”