McDonald’s Presents Proposed Site Plan to CPDC

Site Plan Application & Special Permit 413 Main St, McDonald’s

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Reading, MA — Civil Engineer Dan Allen, representing McDonald’s, presented the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) with a proposed site plan to raze the current restaurant located at 413 Main Street and construct a new restaurant on the same site this past Monday.

In the proposed plan, Allen explained, the current 3,700 square-foot building, built in 1963, would be torn down and replaced with a modern 3,970 square-foot structure in the same location on the site. Allen explained that an underground culvert that runs through the property limited options to rearrange the site. The new building would contain two drive-through windows with dual drive-through ordering points on the rear side of the building. The Play Place on the Main Street side of the property would be replaced with a recirculation lane, allowing vehicles to re-enter the parking lot on the south side of the property after receiving their food without having to go back onto Main Street.

Allen continued explaining that the restaurant would provide indoor seating for forty-five guests and thirty parking spaces. This is thirteen fewer spaces than are currently available but is still in compliance with Reading’s parking requirements. Allen also noted that the parking reconfiguration would create better traffic flow on the site and that the ADA spaces would now be adjacent to the building. In the current configuration, those utilizing the ADA spaces need to cross the drive-through lane to enter the building.

Allen reported that McDonald’s had already received a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and currently has an application pending with the Conservation Commission. He concluded, noting that in the proposed site plan, parking has been moved away from the abutting neighbor and that a twelve-foot tall privacy fence would be constructed along the property’s eastern border. 

CPDC member Tom Armstrong inquired as to what the drive-through queueing is currently during peak hours of operation. McDonald’s traffic consultant Jason Adams replied that the queue never exceeded nine vehicles in the three days they observed the property. He also suggested that “moving the entry to the drive-through much further away [from Main Street] is a primary objective to this project.” Allen also shared that one of the stipulations of the ZBA approval was to close one of the drive-through lanes after nine o’clock each night. Armstrong agreed that the new configuration “has the potential to reduce traffic on Main Street.”

Adams continued, sharing that the final goal is to “improve efficiency and improve customer experience.”

CPDC member Tony D’Arezzo questioned the lack of a second on-site loading area, as is required by zoning for a restaurant of this size. McDonald’s representatives had no answer for this question, but D’Arezzo suggested they may also need a waiver for this.

McDonald’s is also requesting a sign waiver for the project in order to install a monument sign at the entrance to the site. CPDC chair John Weston observed that some of the proposed directional signage also does not conform to bylaw restriction due to the inclusion of the McDonald’s “M” logo on the signs. Allen affirmed that inclusion of the logo was not necessary.

Resident David Talbot, who had submitted a letter signed by over sixty residents, asked that the CPDC work with McDonald’s to consider “a better use for the site.” Talbot shared that the McDonald’s property is “right in the bullseye of all the objectives [the town] has for the downtown.” Talbot then cited initiatives such as the Walkers Brook Drive corridor improvement plan, the MBTA Communities legislation, the MAPC Net-Zero emissions goals, and the Eastern Gateway ideas. Talbot continued explaining that the McDonald’s website proclaims itself to be a good community partner seeking to be net zero by 2050.

“This is an innovative company that thinks about real estate in a creative way at times.” Talbot proclaimed. He then shared two examples, one from Philadelphia and one from California, where McDonald’s worked with communities to create different approaches to their restaurants. He concluded this line of discussion by suggesting that the town could partner with McDonald’s on a mixed-use type of complex that brought greater value to the town.

Talbot also questioned the traffic assumptions made by McDonald’s, suggesting that traffic from the site could, in fact, double. He proposed that the CPDC request an independent review of the submitted traffic study. Weston indicated that a peer review of the study could be appropriate and that the CPDC would discuss whether or not to request one. “Having that second opinion is important,” Weston added.

Resident Mary Ellen O’Neil also spoke, questioning the need for the front recirculation lane. She requested that a landscaped area would create a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape for the area.

CPDC continued the public hearing at its November 6 meeting.

CPDC also voted 4-0 to continue the public hearing regarding the definitive subdivision application for 0 Annette Lane. CPDC approved the preliminary subdivision plan for the property in April 2023. 

Property owner Peter Seibold is proposing a one-house subdivision on the property but is requesting to extend Annette Lane by thirty feet to create a connection with the proposed home’s driveway. Project engineer Andrew Pandolph reported that around thirty trees would have to be removed to complete the project, though he did note that Reading bylaws would require most of those trees to be replaced.

Resident Kendra Cooper expressed concerns regarding water infiltration from the site as it abuts significant wetlands. She shared concerns for abutters and those downstream who count on the trees and other vegetation to help water infiltrate the aquifers below.

Pandolph responded that the proposed water containment system should allow time for water to get to the aquifer in a similar manner. CPDC continued the hearing to December 11.

CPDC adjourned at 11:15 p.m.

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