After two hours of public hearing and Planning Board debate, Johnson Family Investments got the last green light it needed to break ground on the redevelopment of the Frigate Restaurant property at 806 Mill St. The new business, Fieldstone Farms, will include a produce market and ice cream window.
Johnson – along with his architect, Anthi Frangiadis and Associates and GAF Engineering – overcame protestations from various members of the Planning Board during the sit plan review, notably Ted North.
“The abutters have absolutely no recourse, and this is going to have an impact on the quality of life, as well as resale value of their property,” North said. “The ice cream window shouldn’t be permitted, and the project’s too big. It needs to be scaled down, otherwise there’s going to be a detriment to the neighborhood.”
North lamented that the project would end up at more than 5,000 square feet, exceeding original plans, but included the roofline in that estimate. Johnson disagreed with North’s measurements, and he didn’t stop there.
“The building will end up occupying 8 percent of the lot,” Johnson said. “It is measured by the exterior walls, not by roofline – that’s in your own bylaws. As far as a detriment to the neighborhood, that’s absolutely ridiculous. That place is a dump, and I’m going to go in and clean it up.
“This represents a significant investment in the neighborhood,” he continued. “A produce market with or without an ice cream window is not going to affect property value in a negative way.”
Johnson reminded the Planning Board that the abutter on each side of the Fieldstone Farms site supports the project. While an abutter across the street expressed concerns about the size and traffic issues, the public input throughout the proceedings was largely positive.
In approving the project 4-2, the Planning Board: limited the business hours to 9:00 am-7:00 pm for the produce market and 9:00 am-9:00 pm for the seasonal ice cream window; stipulated that no outside seating be installed; and amended acceptable market sales to “produce and grocery-related products.”
Johnson said that construction will begin soon, as he’s aiming for a spring of 2014 opening.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the Planning Board and the Energy Management Committee resumed discussion on the Solar Bylaw, which passed in part at Town Meeting in May and will see another vote at Fall Town Meeting – if the two sides can work together to craft a revised policy on residential installations. The Planning Board continues to seek more oversight in the process, while the EMC dug in its heels on resisting a special permit. The EMC did, however, add a requirement for abutter notification.
“We came away [from Town Meeting] very enthusiastic, very close to a sweet spot between people in the town who want to do what they want with their backyards and people who want to regulate,” EMC member Jennifer Francis said. “We came within four votes. It makes no sense to me to start all over again. We think you ought to consider the changes that we made to address criticisms and comments.”
As the meeting had exceeded three hours at this point, Planning Board members heard Francis out, but continued the discussion until Aug. 5.
“I don’t want you to waste your time,” Chair Pat McArdle said, “because I don’t even know if we’re in the same place as you right now.”
In other news, the McArdle reported that the Board is in communication with Cumberland Farms about its location at 406 Wareham Rd. Marion is asking the gas station and convenience store to add four parking spots, improve safety conditions, and increase its operational efficiency.
By Shawn Badgley