The owners of 47 East Main Street, also referred to as 1790 Stone Manor, were dealt a significant blow in their attempt to rent out the property for private events when the Board of Appeals on Wednesday night voted to deny a variance from current zoning regulations.
While the owners had agreed to more than a dozen conditions in an effort to gain approval to move ahead with hosting private events, board members agreed the proposal did not meet the conditions for a variance.
Voting on two separate motions related to the request for a variance, the board voted 5-0 and 3-2 in opposition.
On the first motion, “Owing to circumstances relating to the soil conditions, shape or topography (but not size) of such land or structures, and especially affecting such land or structures (but not affecting generally the zoning district in which it is located), a literal enforcement of the provisions of this chapter would involve substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, to the petitioner,” Chair Mark Hyman and members Mike DiMascio, James Burton, Ria McNamara and Kevin Baxter all voted against.
On the second motion, “Desirable relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of this chapter,” McNamara, Burton and Baxter all voted in opposition, with Hyman and DiMascio voting in favor.
With public discussion previously having being held, no additional comments were allowed at Wednesday’s meeting, but property owner Anna Dorcey and attorney Peter Barbieri were present for the online meeting.
Before the issue was brought to a vote, associate member John Coutinho, who did not have a vote on this matter and who called into the meeting by phone, said the board had established “tight conditions” surrounding the proposed business, and argued it would fit in with the neighborhood.
“They really do have a problem with the topography,” Coutinho said. “The location is only a couple hundred yards away from Weston Nurseries, one of the largest retail establishments in our town, and the International Marathon Center,” Coutinho said. “To have a venue like this right next door … I see it wouldn’t be a detriment to the neighborhood at all, especially with all the conditions we put on.”
Baxter, acknowledging he did “love the idea,” said even with the proposed conditions, which among other things attached stipulations to gatherings of 50 or more people, or where alcohol is served, there still was neighborhood opposition.
“Yes, there are commercial neighbors on one side who are in support of this,” Baxter said, “but there are residential neighbors on the other side who are not supportive. The conditions are wonderful, but they aren’t making the neighbors happy. I find that to be concerning.”
Added Hyman, “I think we’ve already decided, at least to this specific proposal before us, it’s not within the permitted use or we wouldn’t be here.”
Hyman did suggest the owners could come back with a different proposal.
“I don’t want to suggest they could do this simply if they incorporated as a nonprofit,” he said. “I think they might have a better argument. If they brought it to [Building Inspector Mike] Shepard, and someone appealed it to us, we’d have to decide on that.”
Although she could not comment at the meeting, Dorcey, in a Feb. 28 update to an online petition posted on change.org which as of Wednesday night had garnered 578 signatures, referred to the upcoming vote, saying, “We’ve had to agree to several stipulations to make this happen; however, we do not seem to have enough support of the Board of Appeal members. It is unfortunate, as they don’t seem to think this is a need for the town, or that our property would meet the standards of a variance.”
Board faces changes
In other Board of Appeals news, speaking before the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Hyman referenced the resignation this week of two School Committee members, Joe Markey and Meg Tyler. That led to a brief discussion about vacancies on the Board of Appeals.
Gerald Tuite, who was an associate member, passed away in January. Hyman is moving to Chicago; he has not said how much longer he wills serve on the board.
“I will come to the next hearing,” Hyman said, “but I’m not committing past that. We are still moving.”
Noting the need to reorganize and choose a new chair once he departs, Hyman encouraged interested members to “think about it, at least.”