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UPDATED: Dublin votes down drive-throughs

By Meghan Pierce
Union Leader Correspondent

March 12. 2014 2:02AM

DUBLIN— Large numbers of voters turned out Tuesday and voted down a controversial zoning amendment that would have allowed for drive-thru businesses in town.

Almost half of the town's registered voters — 571 or 48.5 percent of the 1,176 on the checklist — turned out to vote.

Article 6, which would have included commercial drive-thrus as a permitted use in the Neighborhood Commercial District and by special exception in the Village and Rural districts, was voted down, 339-222.

Only the Mountain District would have been excluded.

The zoning change was opposed by a group of residents, including Dublin General Store owner Andy Freeman, who posted a sign on an empty lot he owns on Route 101 that said a Taco Bell was coming soon. The sign was just a way of getting residents' attention, said group member Miriam Carter.

"That was something on our part to wake up the town as to what was at stake because there wasn't a lot of information from the Planning Board at that point," Carter said.

Members of her group believed the Planning Board had proposed zoning changes that would have affected 70 percent of the town without enough public hearings, input and outreach.

"I'm delighted, as is the group. We put a big effort out to inform the townspeople at what was at stake, and it seemed like it paid off. I would hope that in the future, the town would allow the town more dialogue before such a major vote," Carter said.

The proposed change would have directly affected the Carr's Store gas station/convenience store at the intersection of routes 101 and 137, which had proposed a $1 million renovation last year that included plans for a drive-thru Dunkin' Donuts.

That plan was withdrawn, said Planning Board Chairman Bruce Simpson. But during the site-plan process, there was confusion about the drive-thru plan because the town zoning ordinance is vague on the subject, so the Planning Board sought public input, then put forth a zoning change proposal based on that feedback, he said.

Wednesday, Simpson said, "We really didn't have a firm sense on the opinion of town for or against, so now we have a better idea of this. We won't be pursuing drive-thrus in town anytime soon."

The vote might have been different if the zoning change had only been proposed in the Commercial Neighborhood District, he said. Misinformation was also spread about fast-food restaurants popping up all over town, which was false, he said.

"It think people, maybe, got misinformation and were scared of the ramifications," he said.

Carter said, "It was never about fear for us, and it was never about Carr's Store. It was about the Planning Board not doing right by the town."

All other proposed zoning changes passed, including one that allows gas stations to combine gas and diesel at the same pump by special exception.

Paul Delphia won the Select Board race with 270 votes against write-in candidates Charlie Champagne, who had 137 votes, and Allan "Geoff" Pinney, who had 74.

In a race for town clerk/tax collector, Jeannine R. Dunne won with 368 votes against Gretchen Ann Noe, who had 185.

Champagne, with 14 votes, and Richard Scheinblum, with 19 votes, were elected to the Budget Committee as write-in candidates.

In the Planning Board race, Suzan Macy, with 314 votes, and John Morris, with 275, won the two open seats, defeating Steven Baldwin, who had 249, and Gregg W. Fletcher, who had 182 votes.

Politics Dublin

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