MEDFORD – How much does the Dunkin’ chain-like drive-thru service?
Well, a Maple Shade franchisee is planning to leave its walk-in store at a Route 73 shopping center for another site — in the same complex — that will allow customers to order from their cars.
A Somerdale operator wants approval to add a drive-thru lane at a White Horse Pike location, while a take-out window’s already evident in a store being built on Route 73 in Mount Laurel.
And a Medford developer just won an appeals court decision in its battle to build a drive-thru Dunkin’ near the busy intersection of Taunton and Tuckerton roads.
Monday’s appellate ruling allows developers James and David DePetris to return to Medford’s zoning board, which previously rejected the proposed Dunkin due to potential traffic problems from drive-thru service.
The ruling said a board resolution, which detailed reasons for the denial, failed to address the developers’ offer to ban left turns from the restaurant during the peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m.
The restriction was offered “in direct response” to concerns raised by board members, residents, and the township engineer, the ruling noted.
By staying silent on the offer, the board had not shown it “rigorously performed the required analysis,” the appellate court said.
It ordered the application to be returned to the Medford board “for further consideration and the issuance of a new resolution.”
“We were pleased with the court’s decision. It hit right on target,” said James DePetris, whose firm previously lost a lower-court challenge to the zoning board’s rejection.
The 17-page ruling made clear the importance of drive-thru service to Dunkin’, noting the Medford store projected its take-out window would serve more than 100 customers per hour during the morning rush.
It cited testimony from a traffic engineer that 95 percent of Dunkin’ sales on weekdays occur between 7:15 and 8:30 a.m.
“It’s definitely a sign of the times, particularly with concerns over COVID,” DePetris said of the emphasis on drive-thru service. “People find this is safe and convenient.”
Drive-thru lanes also attract customers with children “who don’t want to get out of the car and bring the kids into the store,” added David DePetris.
The appeals court noted an attorney for the board had expressed concern that drivers would ignore the restriction on left turns during the morning rush.
But it said those “non-evidential comments … although perhaps intuitively correct, cannot salvage the (board resolution’s) omission.”
The 1,800-square-foot Dunkin’ would be part of a 6,800-square-foot shopping center at the one-acre site of a former PNC Bank on Taunton Road, the ruling said.
The zoning board’s attorney, Christopher Norman, noted the panel “relied upon other reasons to justify its denial in its resolution.” He asserted the project “proposed an overdevelopment of the site with three retails uses in addition to the Dunkin’.”
He said the board “may reaffirm its findings if warranted on non-traffic-related issues.”
“And the board may also find that DePetris’s traffic mitigation measures still do not adequately address existing off-site traffic problems,” Norman said.
James DePetris said his firm expects “to go back to the board with a revised, compromise plan.”
“Our mission is to begin to improve that intersection,” said DePetris, whose company operates The Village at Taunton Forge shopping center opposite the Taunton Road development site.
In Maple Shade, the planning board has approved the proposed move for a Dunkin’ on the 2800 block of Route 73.
The project is now in the permitting stage, and construction is underway for a Dunkin’ at Ramblewood Shopping Center at Route 73 and Ramblewood Parkway in Mount Laurel, according to a representative for both stores.
Somerdale’s planning board on May 26 is expected to consider a proposal to remodel and add a drive-thru lane at a Dunkin’ at White Horse Pike and Grant Avenue.
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