Last spring, there was much hoopla in Milan over two new gas stations/convenience stores to be built on Route 199, particularly concerning the owners’ requests for zoning variances that would increase the permitted building size by over 50 percent (to 4,000 square feet), and allow drive-through capability for non-conforming businesses.
Rather than grant one-time variances, Milan’s town board instead proposed permanent zoning modifications to the Town Code, thereby allowing both of these changes to stand in local law going forward. But the Town Code also only allows businesses that are “rural” in character and respect Milan’s uniqueness. In addition, the Town Comprehensive Plan clearly specifies that national chains/franchises are not allowed.
Public meetings and hearings were held, and many citizens expressed their points of view. The majority welcomed new business in town, but asked that the requirements of the Town Code and Town Comprehensive Plan be upheld. I was in this group, fearing the proposed changes would set the stage for out-of-scale and out-of-character businesses and, even worse, be the precursor for the introduction of national chains/franchises to our lovely, little, rural town.
So what happened?
Regardless of the majority’s voice, Milan’s town board voted to change the zoning. And now, a very large building is indeed nearly completed at the Chestnut Mart site, replete with drive-through. And surprise (or not, to most of us), a Dunkin’ Donuts sign is poised for installation! Vis-à-vis the Town Code, this franchised business is clearly not “rural” in character, nor does it “respect Milan’s uniqueness”; and vis-à-vis the Town Comprehensive Plan, it is clearly in violation of the guidelines.
So I’d like to know, has the Milan town board this time, without the bother of hearing from the public, simply blown past the Town Code, the Town Comp Plan AND the majority voice, and allowed Dunkin’ Donuts in?
If not illegal, certainly sad.