Wareham Zoning Board of Appeals waits on Wendy's approval pending Town Meeting vote

Jan 25, 2018

The Zoning Board of Appeals said “wait and see” to a developer seeking to build a Wendy’s with a drive-thru at the intersection of Tobey Road and Cranberry Highway.

On Jan. 24, the board met with representatives from the town’s newest shopping center, Wareham Marketplace. Located at the corner of Tobey Road and Cranberry Highway, the center opened in early November and is currently home to an ALDI supermarket and AutoZone.

Representatives from the J. Donegan Company, a Virginia-based development firm, sought permission to include a drive-thru for a new tenant – a 2,400-square-foot Wendy’s restaurant. J. Donegan Company owner, Jay Donegan, and Matt Smith of Bohler Engineering appeared before the board with the request.

Sean Kelley of Vanasse & Associates, Inc. appeared as well to present the results of a recent traffic study. At a previous hearing, board members listed traffic as a major concern and wanted more information before making a decision.

Kelley said the study found the restaurant would not negatively affect traffic patterns. An initial study was done two years ago based on plans that included more space for retail shops.

Kelley said that study showed 208 cars were estimated to enter during a peak time in the evening and 248 cars during a peak time on Saturday. The new study, accounting for Wendy’s, estimated 232 cars for the evening peak and 297 cars during the Saturday peak.

“It’s a very low increase compared to what’s already there,” said Kelley.

While all board members agreed that the project was designed well, most said they didn’t want to reverse a policy that bans new drive-thrus in town.

Chair Nazih Elkallassi said approving an exemption would set a precedent, possibly making it easier for other developers to seek drive-thrus.

Elkallassi noted that voters at the April 23 Town Meeting will be asked to weigh in on an agenda item that, if approved, would favor drive-thrus.

He suggested that Donegan wait and see what happens then, saying it was likely voters would side with welcoming drive-thrus. If that happens, a special exemption would not be required from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board member James Eacobacci said he favored granting an exemption had the board voted on it on Jan. 24. He said no one appeared at the public hearing against the drive-thru.

“Of the 22,000 people in town, zero showed up in opposition,” said Eacobacci. “If people were up in arms they would be here…and the room is empty.”

Donegan and Smith said they would be back before the board on May 9 seeking approval after Town Meeting voters have made a decision.