Published September 18, 2012
Bald eagles apparently don't run on Dunkin’, according to opponents of a gas station owner's plan to add the doughnut chain's service in a bid to boost business.
Kenny Elmes, owner of the Elmesco Citgo in Cold Spring, N.Y., says he's dealt with one obstacle after another from his local planning board over his goal of replacing the station's repair garage with a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru.
But Elmes, 55, said town officials' latest issue seems too bird-brained to believe: He's been told hawking doughnuts could endanger bald eagles nesting along the banks of the Hudson River - several miles from Elmesco's in downtown Cold Spring, a small town in the outer circle of New York's suburbs, in Putnam County.
“They’re out of their minds,” said Elmes. “I can’t renovate my business because they are holding a [proverbial] gun to my head.”
Health issues, including the loss of a leg, have left Elmes unable to work on cars. A son who used to help out at the station died last year, and Elmes said he has three other children in college. The doughnut drive-thru is his last hope for keeping the business afloat - and the tuition payments current.
Elmes claims the village planning board has been holding up his plans since February, citing traffic issues, environmental concerns and a host of other obstacles. But he never imagined his business plan would be a bother to the national bird.
The issue of the eagle landed just last month, when Planning Board Chairman Joseph Barbaro read into the town meeting minutes a reply to his own inquiry to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A copy of the letter, obtained by FoxNews.com, indeed said eagles must be protected.
"To avoid impacts to bald eagles and their habitats, project plans should incorporate mitigation as described in the US Fish and Wildlife Service National Management Guidelines (NBEM Guidelines)," reads the response letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
But state bureaucrats also seemed more than content to leave it up to the locals, granting Cold Spring's planning board “lead agency status” in the case.
"...this letter also serves to confirm that we have no objection to the Village of Cold Spring Planning Board assuming lead agency status for this project. As such, it will be the responsibility of the Village of Cold Spring Planning Board to determine the significance of the action," the letter also reads.
At last month's hearing, Barbaro, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, read the letter to the public and tabled the issue for another 30 days.
But at least one eagle-eyed expert supports Elmes' claims the doughnuts pose no threat.
“The eagles that are nested here are not feeding in the downtown area,” Roddy Macleod, the resident manager of West Point’s nearby Constitution Island, told Foxnews.com.
Part of Macleod's job is to monitor bald eagle nests and migration patterns in the Hudson Valley region.
“The eagles are feeding in the mud flats along the bend of the [Hudson] River," he added. "They don’t eat doughnuts, they prefer carrion [dead animals]."
Elmes’ proposed Dunkin' Donuts is well outside the quarter-mile perimeter around a nesting area, and is nothing to worry about, said Macleod.
The planning board held another public hearing Tuesday night to further discuss the issue.
Elmes says he just wants to get on with the plan. He still wants to sell gas, but he needs to replace his mechanic's operation with a Dunkin' Donuts since health problems have left him unable to do repairs.
"I physically cannot keep working," Elmes said. "Converting to the this will help keep me in business. If I can't, I'll have to sell the place."