ZBA Grants McDonald’s Special Permit

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Reading, MA — By a vote of 5-0, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted McDonald’s, located at 413 Main Street, a special permit to allow for a modification of use for a non-conforming lot. The use is non-conforming as a drive-through is not allowed under current zoning. The current 3,400-square-foot restaurant building on the site was constructed in 1963 and added a single-lane drive-through at some point between 1971 and 1994.

McDonald’s proposes to raze the existing building on the site and replace it with a modern structure that would include dual-ordering lanes and three distinct drive-through windows, one for payment, one for customers to receive their orders, and one for customers who need to wait for longer orders. At the May 30 hearing for the project, attorney Kelley Jordan, representing McDonald’s, shared that the new configuration will improve traffic flow on the site, reduce queueing, and improve pedestrian safety. The proposal also includes the removal of the play area at the front of the property, which will be replaced by a lane for vehicles to pass through to the parking area without re-engaging with Main Street.

As a result of ZBA feedback, Jordan shared that McDonald’s would be dropping its request for a fourth new digital menu board. Project engineer Eric Debrul noted that a three to four-foot wide landscape buffer between the new dual drive-through and the abutting properties would be added along with a replacement of the existing six-foot high wooden stockade fencing with a twelve-foot high sound barrier. He also indicated that the proposed second drive-through lane would close at 9:00 p.m. ZBA added a condition that the second drive-through also would not open until 7:00 a.m.

Traffic engineer Jason Adams said that there is no expected increase in traffic on the site as a result of the changes and that the new queuing arrangement will handle thirteen vehicles as opposed to the current arrangement, only allowing for seven or eight vehicles. “The project, from a traffic and safety perspective, is a very positive project,” Adams added. “[The project] will make the site more functional, more modern.”

Abutter Thomas Vail expressed continued concern about the moving of the drive-through lanes closer to his property. He suggested that McDonald’s use a higher grade material in its proposed sound barrier to compensate. Resident Mary Ellen O’Neil asked about retaining several trees on the Bolton Street side of the property as well as expressing safety concerns over the design of the vehicle lane in the front of the building as being too close to the sidewalk. Debrul countered, indicating that the configuration as presented was preferred by public safety officials for vehicle safety.

After approving the special permit, ZBA also voted 5-0 to approve a variance needed to modify the current menu signs to three digital signs. ZBA voted 5-0 to accept the withdrawal of the variance request for the fourth sign without prejudice. The upgrades to the site are still subject to Community Planning and Development Commission and Conservation Commission review.

ZBA also voted 5-0 to approve a special permit for a two-story addition with an accessory apartment at 313 South Street.

ZBA adjourned at 8:10 pm.

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