During last week’s Mobile Planning Commission meeting, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee accused a nearby homeowner of asking for money to support a West Mobile development. However, the homeowner said talk of money changing hands started with the developer.
During a hearing to rezone property near the intersection of Azalea and Cottage Hill roads to allow for the doughnut shop, Damon Dunn, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, responded to criticism of the project by sharing with the board copies of an email he received from homeowner Gary Beasley. The email, which Dunn shared with Lagniappe, read in part “… after discussing pros [and] cons with my wife, we are willing to listen to your offer before we make our decision.”
Dunn said he in no way intends to “harm” Beasley with the release of the email, but he wanted to counter Beasley’s strong criticism of the project.
“He showed up and strongly opposed the project and I felt his previous actions, including his efforts to develop the subject property himself, were germane to the planning commission,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the offer to which Beasley referred goes back to a meeting in June where the two sides discussed possible compensation to make Beasley a consultant on the project and whip up the community’s support. Beasley, Dunn said, asked the franchisee for $150,000 — the same amount he was allegedly offered for a proposed Walgreens before that deal fell through.
In an interview with Lagniappe, Beasley said he was offered $150,000 for his home and property during negotiations for the Walgreens deal. He also said it was Dunn who first approached him about exchanging money, not the other way around. Beasley said he told Dunn he “couldn’t be bought.”
On the other hand, Dunn points out that Beasley offered him his email address, something he said proves Beasley was reaching out proactively.
Dunn said he did offer Beasley $12,000 to “consult” on the project. He said Beasley never returned an email after the offer was made.
“That wouldn’t cover the depreciation on my house with a Dunkin’ Donuts next to it,” Beasley said.
As for paying community members to lobby support for a project, Dunn said it’s not common and he felt “uncomfortable” about it.
“When you go into a situation where there is organized opposition, then you have to find a way to get in front of neighbors and share your message,” he said. “Initially, you can meet at [homeowners association] meetings, but it’s much more effective to build a team that can help you walk door to door and build support.”
In essence, Dunn said he considered paying Beasley to make a certain number of contacts per day.
Beasley said his steadfast opposition to the doughnut shop is based upon noise and traffic concerns. He said he doesn’t want to hear sounds coming from a drive-thru speaker box at 5 a.m.
“I don’t want Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said. “I don’t like Dunkin’ Donuts.”
The Planning Commission approved the rezoning and it will now go before the Mobile City Council for a final decision. Planning Commission attorney Doug Anderson said the email had no influence on the commissioners.