By ED KDONIAN
On July 31 owners of the franchised KFC on Reservoir Avenue, owned by DE Foods LLC, held an informal meeting for nearby neighbors to announce their acquisition of two abutting …
By ED KDONIAN
On July 31 owners of the franchised KFC on Reservoir Avenue, owned by DE Foods LLC, held an informal meeting for nearby neighbors to announce their acquisition of two abutting homes behind the restaurant and plans to demolish them to renovate and expand their location while adding a drive-thru.
Those entering the business during the meeting were surprised to find the small attached dining room filled with about 40 people spilling out into the counter area as they tried to pack themselves in to hear what DE Foods LLC and Vice President of Operations Dan Whitney had to say about the restaurant’s future.
“The new owners (DE Foods LLC) tried to propose last year to do this, but because they didn’t have enough land they couldn’t,” said Kristen O’Loughlin, who lives nearby. “This year they have bought both properties behind the KFC and now they have the land they need. I have talked to the planning office, and they plan to take both houses down, put in a parking lot and demolish the old KFC building to put in a new building. I have talked to the traffic enforcement and planning office both seemed enthusiastic about KFC’s plan and think it’s an improvement to what is there now but the neighbors I’ve talked to do not want this to go ahead.”
This is the second meeting DE Foods has held to keep neighbors in the loop about plans for their restaurant, having held one last year as well. Since obtaining the property, and several other locations throughout the state about 18 months ago Whitney said, the company hopes to update the building that has stood in place for over 50 years. At the meeting the company showed a site map addressing the proposed redesign and what changes they’d like to make.
By taking down the two houses behind the store, DE Foods LLC hopes to add a drive-thru and extended parking lot. Whitney and Robert Murray of Taft & McSally LLP in Cranston, who is acting as legal council for the company in their dealings with the city, said that the company is simply seeking to bring an out of date facility to the point of being able to meet customer expectations in the modern era.
“Commercial districts are usually limited to the front of the property along the main road, but you’re allowed to go up to 200 feet into residential zones for parking as long as you don’t exit and enter through the property where it is zoned residential,” Murray said.
This was met with skepticism by neighbors who were worried about the traffic increase, as well as possible decrease of property values, increase in noise, trash and even pests that would be drawn in by the increased business and plentiful food to be found by rats in the restaurants dumpster area.
“You (DE Foods, LLC) are allowed by existing law to have the parking spots but not the drive-thru,” said area resident Greg Brennick. “What you’re seeking to do, be honest, is change the zoning on a building that you bought and say, ‘Hey this would better, and I could make more money, screw the neighborhood, I just need to change the zoning.”
Murray said that the actual zoning doesn’t have to change, but rather a variance would have to be approved to allow the drive-thru while keeping the property in its current commercial zone. The properties being torn down would be used for parking and the drive through itself would be placed on the current property.
Despite neighborhood apprehensions, Whitney was hopeful the company’s plans would end up addressing many of the concerns that neighbors voiced.
“When we came to the (first) neighborhood meeting we did not know there would be the ability to purchase the two properties,” said Civil Engineer Nicole Duquette with GPI/Greenman-Pedersen, INC. “We’re making sure that we’re meeting with you all before we go to the town so that we can have your comments before we move forward. We are still in the preliminary phase and encourage you all to voice your opinions so we can try to accommodate these concerns.”
Duquette and Whitney addressed concerns over drainage, traffic, trash and rodents, but the neighbors were clear that they were not okay with the idea of demolishing homes in order to add a drive-thru to the property. Despite neighbor concerns, Whitney was quite clear that DE Foods LLC has every intention of continuing forward with their plan to ask the city for a variance to allow the building of a drive-thru, as well as approval for plans to remodel the location. The point of Monday night’s meeting was to give neighbors a chance to give information to the company that would make the drive-thru, should it happen, less of an inconvenience to the locals, Murray explained.
“From all the emails that I have received I have heard one thing,” said Councilwoman Aniece Germain, who attended the meeting along with City-wide Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli. “They don’t want a drive-thru.”
Claps filled the room along with cries of “no drive-thru” from locals before she could complete her sentence.
“Do you have a study that tells you that you need to have a drive-thru or that it’s required for the business,” she continued once the noise had died down. “What do you have to say that the status without a drive-thru is not okay, because we want to be good neighbors, right? We know that expanding this is not what they want.”
Whitney responded to beliefs that the drive through was unnecessary by making it clear that, while the business had survived this long, this was a new day and age and a traditional sit down fast-food restaurant is just not as tenable as it once was.
“We want to invest in Cranston, and we think it’s a great place to do business,” Whitney said. “Financially, to make this project work, I can’t see it working without that. I don’t think this is a great looking building driving by. I don’t think it looks very good and we want to be proud of every building we have. I can understand people who disagree with what we want to do. We want to invest in this building. The way we pay for what this cost would be through what the drive through and delivery does for us.”