IPSWICH — Subway is coming to downtown.
While the franchise owner says it will have a positive impact on the town, many residents and business owners spoke against the chain restaurant’s proposal, saying it would change the character of downtown and take business away from the many mom-and-pop shops.
The Planning Board last night, however, unanimously approved a special permit, allowing a Subway restaurant to open at 32 Central St. The space was previously occupied by Next Step, run by the Coastal Educational Collaborative.
The decision was made during a continued public hearing, which started on May 2.
Lella Tsinopoulos, owner of Super Subs on Wildes Court, told the board last night that multiple residents and downtown businesses collected more than 1,000 signatures over the past couple of weeks opposing the Subway.
She said there are about 18 food establishments in one square block and there isn’t a market for more sandwich shops, roast beef or pizza places.
“The one thing we don’t need is another food business,” Tsinopoulos said yesterday during an interview. “The people who are signing this petition are not in favor of a franchise in the downtown.”
Heidi Paek, co-chairwoman of the Planning Board, said in an interview that “formula” fast-food restaurants are allowed in the central business district with a special permit approval from the board. The restaurants must be pedestrian-oriented and have no drive-thrus, she said.
The Planning Board does not have the authority to limit certain types of businesses from coming to town, she said.
“It is the consumers who determine the marketplace,” Paek said during an interview, noting the board needs strong legal ground for denial.
The board must also consider social and economic needs, potential fiscal impact, traffic flow and safety, compatibility with neighborhood character, and impacts on the natural environment.