Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Third Time Is Not a Charm

Michael Davis was back before the Planning Board on Wednesday night with his request for an amendment to the plan for 347 Warren Street. The project had originally been approved in April 2012. The amendment now sought involves repositioning the food trucks at the front of the lot and creating an enclosed outdoor seating area for the restaurant in the rear, to comply with State Liquor Authority requirements.

This time, Davis appeared before the Planning Board accompanied by his partner, who will be running the proposed restaurant: none other than Zak Pelaccio of Fish & Game fame.

The amended site plan, which was first presented in May, was the only project before the Planning Board, and they spent more than an hour discussing it. Much of the conversation had to do with bathrooms--a concern that was initially voiced by the newest member of the Planning Board, Tom DePietro. His concern was that two bathrooms were not adequate for the number of people that could potentially gather in the garden of the restaurant and under the portico. The proposed number of seats in the garden is 96; there are another 40 seats under the portico, making a total of 136. The code requires restaurants to have one bathroom for every 75 seats, so with two bathrooms the plan meets the code requirements.

But what about the food trucks? The code does not require food trucks to provide toilet facilities for their customers, but, as Planning Board chair Carmine Pierro pointed out, these food trucks are not parked in the street, they are on private property, so the rules governing food trucks may not apply. He also brought up reported complaints from the owners of nearby businesses that patrons of the food trucks were regularly asking to use their bathrooms.

Andy Howard, counsel to the Planning Board, advised that the number of bathrooms was a building code issue which he would take up with Craig Haigh, the code enforcement officer, and Davis and Pelaccio indicated that if the number of bathrooms was a problem there were several options to rectify it: reduce the seating capacity, create a third bathroom, or eliminate the food trucks. Still some members of the Planning Board seemed unable to let go of the issue. After the discussion had moved on to "light spillage" and kitchen ventilation, Planning Board member Laura Margolis brought the attention back to bathrooms, stressing to Davis and Pelaccio the need to provide bathrooms for the people who patronize the food trucks. Davis explained that patrons and employees of the food trucks now have access to the bathrooms at 347 Warren Street whenever the antique shop is open, and the bathroom problem would be solved by opening the restaurant, since the restaurant would always be open when the food trucks are operating. (Proposed restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; the usual time the food trucks are open is noon to 10 p.m.)

Displaying an attitude that might be described as querulous, Pierro, after worrying about the site's proximity to houses and raising the specter of 200 rowdy people gathering in the outdoor garden during Winter Walk and Arts Walk, declared, "I'm not in favor of this only because it's the third time around." The previous two times were the initial site plan review in 2012 and a return visit to the Planning Board last year after a storage shed was installed next to the reoriented food truck that is now Once Upon a Taco.

More than once since approving the site plan for 347 Warren Street, Planning Board members have complained among themselves at public meetings that the reality of the site fell short of what was promised by the rendering. "How can we approve this," Pierro grumbled, "when we have not seen the original plan adhered to?" Contemplating next steps, Pierro told his colleagues: "We can go through all the gymnastics, and then what do you do?"

Pellacio protested that Pierro was "villainizing for no reason." "This is the first time I have appeared," he argued. "The past has nothing to do with me. Any new establishment is going to have a new plan." Margolis urged her colleagues, "We shouldn't reject this just because it's the third time around." 

When Pierro asked what the "committee's pleasure" was for moving forward, Planning Board member Cleveland Samuels suggested they "talk to Craig [Haigh, code enforcement officer] and have a public hearing"--essentially the course of action Pierro had described as going through "all the gymnastics." 

Although Pierro has in the past been very vocal in his criticism of the Historic Preservation Commission for allegedly "holding up development," he ignored an appeal from Davis's lawyer, Brian Herman, to schedule a public hearing sooner than the board's next regular meeting. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 8, at 6 p.m., in City Hall.


  1. A small correction: You've let out the 30 indoor seats, which bring the total over 150, as I mentioned in the meeting.

  2. Hudson needs a public bathroom - unlike the perpetually unavailable excuse for one at the waterfront - this is a perfect opportunity and location for Hudson to provide one !

  3. we heard you loud and clear, V
    and I agree