I was pleased to know that the Manchester Zoning Commission had recently approved a permit for Starbucks to come to town, given the magnetic appeal of their brand, their reputation for very good treatment of their staff, and the economic boost, new customers and new jobs which they will bring to the town. It appears to be a sparkling addition to the highly professional restoration underway to a shopping plaza which had struggled in recent years until it was bought and renovated by local businessmen Ed Dublois and Pete Keelan, the owners of Equinox Square. In addition, it had occurred to me that Starbucks would make perfectly good use of the already existing drive-through facility which had laid fallow for many years. Thus it was with some dismay that I observed that an eleventh hour appeal had been filed against the Zoning Board's permit by Mr. Bill Drunsic, the Chairman of the very Planning Commission which authored the regulations which the Zoners used in issuing the permit, apparently citing the drive-through as his principal objection. The Appeal becomes even murkier in light of Mr. Drunsic's ownership of the Spiral Press Cafe, a wonderful local institution, much appreciated by the community, which sports a clever sign noting how far it is (48.39 miles away) to the nearest Starbucks.
Now, I won't pretend to know what is going on in Mr. Drunsic's mind in filing his appeal. Some days I'm not always sure about what's going on in my own. I'm not going to say that he is filing this appeal to block competition from coming to town. However, the mere appearance of this conflict of interest, and the mere appearance of using the appeal process for personal gain rather than for its charter purposes of fostering sound planning and zoning, ought to be, in my opinion, reason enough for Mr. Drunsic to recuse himself from anything connected to this project. And it certainly ought to preclude him from taking actions to block a new business from coming to town without a highly compelling rationale, at the very least.
After all, being the apparently civic-minded and entrepreneurial individual which he is in contributing such things as the Rec Center track, helping with the library, opening the Spiral Press Cafe and now being about to renovate the old Factory Point Bank, he would seem to be a person who appreciates the value of being able to open new businesses even if they compete with others, without being opposed for seemingly vague and unspecified reasons. Ironically, the new traffic drawn by a national brand like Starbucks will probably wind up helping the Spiral Press Cafe along with all of the retailers in town who depend on fresh arrivals for revenue growth.
Not to mention the value of sparing the taxpayers of Manchester the legal fees which the Zoning Board is already spending in defending against his appeal, which is a potentially long and expensive process. It's worth noting that the town of Manchester has in fact empowered a Marketing Committee, at taxpayer expense, to develop strategies for bringing new business to town.
So this means that we are now paying to attract new business while paying also to keep it from being beaten away with a heavy stick. I haven't been accused recently of being a genius, but this doesn't make sense to me.
One must ask what precedent a successful appeal against Starbucks would set for future businesses wanting to invest in our economic base. One must ask if the competitive mix of goods and services offered to our citizens and tourist guests ought to be engineered by private interests or left to be designed by the tug and pull of free men and women in a free market risking their labor and money in response to the perceived needs of those whom they seek to serve. In fact, is not this a definition of the very economic engine which had brought our nation to the pinnacle of success we have enjoyed? This project has been vetted and approved to be within the guidelines of the Planning Commission, utilizing the designed controls of size, location, style of buildings and all the elements which go into good planning.
Here is MY appeal, Mr. Drunsic: I respectfully request that you consider, for the good of the town of Manchester, as well as for the good of your own well-earned reputation, withdrawing your Appeal against the permit granted by the Zoning board to Starbucks.