100, Some Tearful, In Village’s Ballroom
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Barbara Tongue got choked up as she talked about the threat of the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins on Chestnut and Walnut Street in the Village of Cooperstown.
“My family goes all the way back to the time of James Fenimore Cooper,” she said. “It’s difficult to look at that proposal and imagine that on the corner of our street in this beautiful village.”
More than 100 neighbors packed the Village Hall ballroom Tuesday, Oct. 5, the the Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board’s public hearing on the proposed coffee and ice cream chain combination.
“It’s an insult to the legacy of this village and the founders to allow something like this into the village,” added Sam Ross.
“I’ve never seen a Dunkin Donuts that isn’t hideous,” said Hillary LaDuke. “We have Schneider’s, which makes the best donuts, and Stagecoach, which makes the best coffee. Why is this even a thought?”
Even her son Caleb Rosa, a student at Cooperstown Central School, spoke against it. “I haven’t heard anyone at school say it’s a good project,” he said. “This isn’t a fast-food town.”
“Chain stores conduct research on what locations would be good candidates,” said Julie Sorensen. “If we allow a Dunkin’ Donuts: Does that invite other chains? It’s a slippery slope.”
Not one person spoke in favor of the project.
“I’m sitting here listening to the negative comments and wondering what the positive comments would sound like,” said Hudi Podolsky. “To hear that it would improve the visual and historic character – but I couldn’t find it in me to make that argument. It’s an ugly detraction from a lovely community.”
“When I was building a deck and putting up a fence, I had to come before this board with all my materials, how they’d blend with the neighborhood and show that I’d maintain the essence of the village,” said Bret Meckel. “Are you going to hold them to the same standards as you hold the rest of us?”
Following the public comment, Steven Wilson, Bohler Engineering, presented the updated plans to the board.
“It’s always good to hear comments,” he said. “Everyone was passionate but civil.”
Among the changes he made since the last meeting were to remove brick wrapping around the bottom of the building, as well as muting the color palate.
However, problems remained. “It’s a mishmash of styles,” said chairman Liz Callahan. “It’s up to you what style in the neighborhood you’d like to chose to match.”
The brand wall, which Callahan had called “a glaring detraction” when the first plans were proposed on Tuesday, Sept. 19, remained in the drawing, much to the board’s chagrin.
“It’s never going to become something we like,” she said. “It’s definitely not compatible with the aesthetic of the neighborhood, and it thumbs its nose at the character of the village.”
In presenting a design that showed the building in the neighborhood, Wilson only showed the view from Route 28, without accounting for the neighboring homes or incorporating landscaping into the design.
“We need to have a clear understanding of the proposed scale in the context,” Callahan said.
In addition to having to pass HPARB, the plans must also pass the village Planning Board, which has ordered that the project undergo a traffic study.
HPARB declined to accept the application as complete and asked Wilson to return again with a new set of plans.
“And we ask that the brand wall not be part of the package,” warned Callahan.