New Front Street Restaurant Talks Continue

            Discussion over the proposed Mary Celeste Bar/Restaurant planned for the former Book Stall at 151 Front Street continued during the public hearing with the Marion Planning Board on February 19, and will keep continuing, at least until the board’s next meeting.

            The meeting had to be kept short due to time constraints for multiple meetings being held at the Town House that night, so not all parties who were in attendance that night had the chance to speak.

            Planning Board Chairman Will Saltonstall said the proposal had generated “quite a bit of interest” from the public, with almost 20 new items of correspondence having been received since the prior meeting.

            The public hearing that was continued from February 4 had Mike Achilles back before the Planning Board as the hopeful proprietor of a new bar/restaurant he says he considers “a conversation place” above all else.

            “To the people of Marion,” Achilles began, “I’m embarrassed and [I would] like to apologize…” He said the intent was to bring the community of Marion together, not divide it.

            Achilles said he meets the state’s and the town’s definition of a restaurant, and his capacity would max at 49 occupants.

            “It’s not a lot of people,” Achilles said, pointing to those who were in the room that night which was around 50 people. “It’s being built as a conversation place, like a Starbucks for adults.”

            The crux of the matter during the prior meeting was parking, and Achilles had requested a Special Permit for a reduction in the parking requirement in addition to his Special Permit request for a change of use for the building. And, according to town counsel, the board is authorized to reduce those parking requirements.

            Achilles brought with him a signed statement in writing confirming the “gentleman’s agreement” he has with his abutting business, Hiller Fuels, to allow patrons of the Mary Celeste to use Hiller’s driveway to access five parking spaces of its own and five belonging to Hiller. The bylaw would require Achilles to provide 18 spaces, and he is asking the board to allow those remining eight to be off-street, including use of the public parking by Island Wharf.

            “We do have the power to grant him the eight spots,” said board member Andrew Daniel reviewing the letter from town counsel. He also said the letter confirms that Island Wharf public parking could also be used. “It just seems like parking isn’t really a concern now.”

            Board member Eileen Marum said she took issue with that statement, saying, “Parking will be a problem because the lot next to the General Store will not be available, so that means the cars will be on the street.” She said other nearby establishments, such as the Beverly Yacht Club, also rely on off-street parking, and so do the tenants who rent apartments above Handy’s Tavern.

            “I still contend that the Town should not be subsidizing a business with town parking down the street,” Marum said. She continued, “The other issue is noise, and I know the Inn on Shipyard Park in Mattapoisett still has an ongoing issue with noise and disruption to the neighbors, so that is just another issue that I would like to bring up and for everyone to consider.”

            Achilles told Marum that one of the renters above Handy’s Tavern told him “she can’t wait for us to open.”

            For board member Chris Collings, as far as village businesses are concerned, “Everybody’s had to bend the rules somehow.” Otherwise, no one would have a business because there would be nowhere to park. “Parking is an issue, but it’s a solvable one, its fixable,” said Collings.

            “Parking in the village center … has always been a problem and probably always will be a problem,” said board member Norm Hills. “As far as the difference between parking on the street and parking on Island Wharf, there’s no difference. It’s public parking and anyone can use it.”

            The board discussed the possibility of clarifying the bylaw on parking, suggesting that anyone could bring it to the next Town Meeting warrant with the right number of signatures.

            The hearing was continued until the next meeting.

            Also during the meeting, the board approved a Special Permit for a pier at 51 Holly Road, represented by David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates. The Conservation Commission had already approved the project, and the Division of Marine Fisheries had no issues with the pier, Marum pointed out for the record. Daniel said he wished he had something formal from the harbormaster with his approval of the pier, but no one argued that he would have contacted the board if he had any problems with the plan. Chairman Will Saltonstall underscored the board’s narrow focus on the project, which pertained mainly to the undersized lot, saying residents concerned more with the technical aspects of the project should refer to the Department of Environmental Protection or other related agencies.

            Another Special Permit for a pier at 95 Holly Road, also represented by Davignon, was approved. The Conservation Commission had already approved the pier, and the harbormaster did not have any issues with this project, either. Marum again pointed out that there were no issues with the Division of Marine Fisheries.

            In other matters, the board released the bond for landscaping for Fieldstone Farm Market.

            The next regular meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for March 4 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Planning Board

By Jean Perry

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