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McDonald’s zoning change to come before Watertown City Council

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WATERTOWN — Roman R. Espinoza insisted he did not move into his house on Chestnut Street just to have a McDonald’s restaurant be built two doors down.

“If we were standing here six months from now and this gets approved, we’d be hearing it right now,” Mr. Espinoza said Friday, while standing in his front yard at 123 Chestnut St.

He and a large contingent of south side residents are expected to attend a public hearing Monday night to persuade the Watertown City Council to vote down a zoning change needed for the McDonald’s project to proceed at Washington and Chestnut streets.

Sphere Development, Manlius, proposed constructing the McDonald’s on a 0.65-acre site at 1200 Washington St., now occupied by the Performance Automotive repair shop and next to the Sunoco convenience store and gas station.

Plans called for a house at 111 Chestnut St., owned by Susan Burker, to be demolished to make way for the restaurant. The project would take a zoning change for the Chestnut Street residence, from Residence A to Neighborhood Business.

Three weeks ago, the city’s Planning Board rejected the zoning change after about 30 residents showed up at the meeting to express concerns about traffic, noise, odors and a decline in property values. Some also expressed concerns about child obesity, given that Watertown High School and Case Middle School are right across the street.

More than 100 residents also have signed a petition objecting to the zoning change. Members of the nearby Stone Presbyterian Church also are against it.

If the zoning change fails, the Golden Arches still may be built. Gregory S. Widrick, co-owner of Sphere Development, has confirmed that he and his partner, Kurt F. Wendler, may pursue alternative ways to proceed with the project. They have indicated to the city’s Planning Department they may propose another configuration not needing a zoning change. The two developers could not be reached for comment.

Talking with her neighbor on Friday, Amy Corbett, who lives next door at 119 Chestnut St., speculated the restaurant may end up being built parallel to the road and fit on the auto repair shop site, so no zoning change would be needed. She also heard rumors that it would be included in a new building that would house the Sunoco convenience store.

On Friday, city officials said they had not received any different plans and have not talked specifically to developers about what they may do if the zoning change fails.

The developers proposed a 3,900-square-foot restaurant with a single drive-up window, 22 parking spots, a one-way entrance and exit onto Washington Street and an entrance-exit on Chestnut Street. Both Mrs. Corbett and Mr. Espinoza said they hope that only the zoning change would come up at Monday night’s meeting and the developers do not try to pull a fast one and submit other plans.

Before Monday night, they plan to seek other signatures for their petition.

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