Claremont board approves plan for Domino’s on Washington Street but nixes left turn 

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 11-15-2023 1:08 AM

CLAREMONT — The Planning Board unanimously approved a site plan for a Domino’s Pizza restaurant on Washington Street at the site of a shuttered gas station and car wash, but board members denied the applicant’s request for a left-hand turn across Washington Street into the location.

If the property owner, Lebanon-based KAB Properties, wants the board to reconsider the left-turn request, an independent study has to be conducted that looks at the traffic counts and the overall safety of the plan. Currently, there are two double-yellow lines, prohibiting a left turn, and KAB wants a break in those lines to allow cars traveling east to enter the property.

Dan Nash, of Lebanon-based Advanced Geomatis and Design, presented the plans to the board at Monday’s meeting. Together, Nash said, a 300-foot eastbound left-hand turn lane and a traffic light at the Winter Street intersection just to the east would make a left turn safe by creating gaps in the traffic flow and good sightlines for drivers.

“If a car is waiting to turn into our facility, there would be no obstruction of traffic because it would be in the left-hand turn lane,” Nash said. “I don’t feel it is an unsafe condition.”

The location at 54 Washington St. is next to Birney’s convenience store and would replace the Domino’s at the Claremont Shopping Plaza on Washington Street, where Big Lots is the anchor tenant.

KAB bought the half-acre parcel in December 2022 for $325,000, according to the city’s assessing records. Constructed in 1974, the building, which KAB plans to renovate with two small additions, is 1,300 square feet. The gas pumps and underground tanks were removed after the business closed several years ago.

City Planner deForest Bearse told the board that the Fire, Police and Public Works departments reviewed the plans and are opposed to allowing a left-hand turn.

In her review of the application, Bearse noted a Washington Street Access Management Study from 2014 that said the stretch of road from North Street to Moody Avenue has the highest volume of traffic and the highest frequency of accidents per mile.

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The study recommended a raised median from North Street to Winter Street to improve traffic flow and safety.

“It has been quite well-known; we don’t want left-hand turns in that area,” Bearse told the board.

Board member Bruce Kolenda ask why, with three departments opposed to the left turn, would another study be necessary.

“I felt it is in the board’s best interest to have an independent study done,” Bearse said. “The applicant says it is safe, so we are asking for additional evidence to corroborate that.”

Other board members sounded skeptical of approving a left-turn lane, even with an additional study.

“It will take an awful lot of convincing,” Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau said.

Robert Keene, one of the restaurant’s owners, said without the turn, drivers might choose to make a U-turn at the light and then a quick right to the property.

“I don’t know if that is any safer,” Keene said.

Plans include a drive-thru for pick up at the back of the building with parking spaces in the front for carry-out and delivery drivers. There will be no indoor dining.

There is an entrance for westbound drivers at the east end of the parcel, but a concrete median prevents eastbound drivers from using that entrance. Exiting the property on the west side, drivers will only be able to turn right.

Other than the left-hand turn issue, the board fully supported the plans and had just a few questions. Planning Board member Dave Putnam said it was an “awkward” discussion regarding the left-hand turn off Washington Street as the board was pleased to see that the site will be cleaned up.

“We really like the idea that you are taking a building that is an eyesore and now you are bringing forward a Domino’s and fixing up the building,” Putnam said. “It is going to look a lot nicer, and we appreciate that.”

After the meeting, Keene said he was not sure if they would proceed with the traffic study. If a study is submitted, it would first go to the city’s Traffic Committee, then to the Planning Board. The board seemed uncertain if it could override the Traffic Committee’s conclusion if it again opposes the left turn.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.