A coffee controversy is brewing in Cheektowaga, pitting franchisees hoping to open a Tim Hortons on Dick Road against nearby residents fearful of the shop bringing even more traffic to the already busy street.
The issue has been percolating since July 5, when the Town Board voted, 4-2, to deny a special-use permit and two variances for the proposed shop at 829 Dick Road, the current site of seafood restaurant Captain’s Cove. Residents told the board the area has long, northbound traffic backups to the Kensington Expressway during morning rush hour and a Tim Hortons would only make it worse.
“Out of 50 people that spoke there wasn’t one supporting the project,” said Councilman Timothy J. Meyers, who voted against the project. “There was at least 50 against it that live right there. That was my reason.”
Fredy and Judy Stamm, under the name Silvertip Ventures LLC, have proposed demolishing the one-story frame restaurant and two sheds and constructing a 1,766-square-foot Tim Hortons with a drive-thru window.
The Stamms, owners of six Tim Hortons locations in West Seneca and Buffalo, said the new shop would create 40 jobs.
The nearest Tim Hortons locations are 1.1 miles away on Union Road and 1.2 miles away on Genesee Street, across from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Captain’s Cove, which is open Wednesday through Saturday, will remain open if the deal falls through, said owner Ruth Breidenstein.
“If this doesn’t go through we’re not locking our doors,” she said. “We’ll remain open.”
The franchisees have had a pending contract since October to purchase Captain’s Cove, said their attorney, Ralph C. Lorigo.
Lorigo put the number of residents who spoke against the project on July 5 at a much lower 15. And he said a traffic study prepared in March by SRF Associates at the town’s request showed the shop would not have an adverse impact on traffic flow.
Most of the shop’s customers would already be passing by on their daily commute, the study found. The site would generate about 45 new vehicle trips during the peak morning hours on a road that daily carries nearly 25,000 vehicles, according to the March study.
“The results indicate that the proposed development will not have significant adverse traffic impacts to the existing roadway network,” according to the study.
The drive-thru is designed to handle 26 cars even though the town only requires it to handle 16, Lorigo said. The Erie County Highway Department, which maintains Dick Road, concurred with SRF’s findings.
Worries about Tim Hortons and other drive-thrus causing traffic headaches aren’t new, especially in areas with already congested roadways.
But one retail expert says the concerns are unfounded and misinformed.
Tim Hortons is very good at engineering effective traffic ingress and egress at its shops, said Burt P. Flickinger III, a retail and consumer goods consultant.
“There’s really zero impairment of any kind for the residents of the area,” said Flickinger, a Buffalo native and managing director of SRG Insight in New York City. “There’s no meaningful additional traffic. There’s no additional congestion. There’s not the re-enactment of Walden Galleria at Christmas time or Black Friday.”
The Town Board got into a bit of hot water last week when it rejected the plans.
The vote came after the board tabled an earlier resolution on the project’s environmental impact assessment. A determination on the State Environmental Quality Review is required before a vote on a special-use permit.