Published in the February 16, 2017 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Plans have been filed with two town boards in Lynnfield seeking to demolish The Ship Restaurant, a landmark on Route 1 south since the mid-1920s.
The first public hearing in the process of converting the area currently occupied by The Ship Restaurant into a small three-unit strip mall plus a free-standing bank building was held before the Lynnfield Zoning Board of Appeals Feb. 7.
After a lengthly discussion on the site plan, traffic circulation, proposed building materials and signage issues, the public hearing was continued to the next Lynnfield ZBA meeting on March 7.
Ship Mall LLC at 24-38 Broadway is seeking a variance and special permit under the town of Lynnfield’s Zoning Bylaws as well as site plan approval to allow new building signage plus a menu board sign. Additionally, the ZBA must approve moving the free-standing sign currently used for the Christmas Tree Shops, which will otherwise be unaffected by this proposal.
The applicant was represented by attorney Theodore Regnante and engineer Peter Ogren of Hayes Engineering along with their team of architects and traffic engineers. Lynnfield ZBA Acting Chairman Patrick Rondeau and alternate members Brian Shaffer and Andy Youngren comprised the quorum for the ZBA.
Regnante also told the board that his client is applying for a special permit for an expanded retail use, including a drive-up restaurant for coffee shop – hence the need for the menu board sign – and a free-standing bank building, which would also have a drive up teller.
Given the two new drive-up uses proposed for the property, a traffic engineering study by Jones and Beach Engineers, Inc. was presented by the applicants to depict the proposed changes to the internal traffic circulation and to prove that adequate space exists in these queues so as not to impact traffic on Route 1 or within the existing Christmas Tree Shops traffic pattern.
The applicants had previously met with the Lynnfield Fire Department to discuss site access and water supply. A letter presented to the ZBA by Regnante indicated the Lynnfield Fire Department’s support for the plan as proposed. Part of this agreement includes maintaining the access gate to the parking lot at the Christmas Tree Shops. This gate was erected several years ago to prevent traffic from backing up onto Route 1 by forcing patrons to travel farther down the access road to enter that parking lot. The gate enables large fire trucks to access the site in emergencies.
Regnante stated that the applicant has decided to withdraw a third request seeking ZBA approval for outside seasonal sales of plants, flowers, Christmas trees and wreaths at the Christmas Tree Shops building located at 38 Broadway.
This withdrawal occurred after the applicants met privately with the owners of the abutting business property behind The Ship and the Christmas Tree Shops, which is currently leased to Xerox Corp. These property owners raised concerns over the potential traffic hazards and visibility issues for their trucks and other vehicles that would access the site near the proposed seasonal sales location, plus the loss of 18 parking spaces.
Regnante said potentially in the future they may decide come back to the ZBA to seek approval for a seasonal sales location behind the Christmas Tree Shops property.
Curb cuts on Route 1 are proposed to remain unchanged. The applicant may need to meet with MassHighway during this approval process as any changes to the curb cuts on a state highway would trigger the agency’s involvement.
New retail spaces
The Ship Mall would be comprised of three units – a combined 7,580 square foot retail space divided between a 2,000 square foot end-unit and a 5,580 foot middle unit along with a 2,200 square foot restaurant/coffee shop with a drive-up window.
Additionally, a free-standing building of 2,500 square feet with a drive-up window is being proposed on the restaurant side of the mall. These two buildings would be separated by the restaurant’s drive-up lane with curbing as well as a two-way driveway for the bank plus a row parking spaces perpendicular to the driveway and a strip of landscaping.
The site is nearly 6.8 acres and has over 725 feet of frontage, both of which are far in excess of the minimum three acres and 100 feet frontage in this district, Regnante said, adding that all setbacks are also met (100-foot front and 40-foot side lots).
Regnante also indicated that his clients disagree with the Lynnfield Historical Commission that The Ship is a landmark of any significance. However, they agreed to abide by a request not to seek a demolition permit until after they meet with the Historical Commission on Feb. 22. Furthermore, they signed a letter agreeing not to seek the demolition permit for three days following that meeting. He added that the Lynnfield ZBA’s jurisdiction is independent of the Lynnfield Historical Commission.
“The building is falling apart. If we don’t take it down it will probably fall down. The restaurant is closed and Yankee Candle will go out in a matter of weeks. The kitchen is terrible,” Regnante said, adding any restaurant at the site in recent years has failed.
The applicants are “open to do something to the building to play homage to the ship’s past,” such as a plaque, Regnante said.
Lynnfield ConCom to weigh in
The applicant has also filed for a public hearing before the Conservation Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 21. ConCom meetings begin at 6:30 p.m., also in the Selectmen’s meeting room at Lynnfield Town Hall, 55 Summer St.
The plans are available for public inspection at the office of the Lynnfield Building Inspector on the lower level of Lynnfield Town Hall. Included in the proposal is site access off Daly Road and Route 1.
In a press release announcing the pending demolition of the Ship, Regnante also indicated that construction of an abutting 68-unit condominium project off Route 1, which was approved under the state’s Ch. 40B affordable housing statute, will begin in the spring of 2017. Regnante had represented a separate owner, Danis Properties, during the permitting process for that residential project.