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TOWN OF HINGHAM
Board of Appeals
NOTICE OF DECISION
IN THE MATTER OF:
Applicant and The Trustees of Reservations Agent: Daniel A. Brewer
Property Owner: 572 Essex Street 24 Central Street
Beverly, MA 01915 Hingham, MA 02043
Premises: World’s End Reservation
0 Off Martins Lane (Map 20 Lot 60)
Hingham, MA 02043
Deed Reference: Certificate of Title No. 41485 and 48822 issued by the Plymouth County Registry District of the Land Court
Plan References: Plan set entitled, “Site Plan Set, World’s End, Hingham, MA,” prepared by Cavanaro Consulting, 687 Main Street, Norwell, MA, dated September 21, 2016, revised through January 4, 2017 (Drawings SP 1 – SP 3)
“Sketch Plan – Front Parking and Entrance,” prepared by Cavanaro, dated January 12, 2017 (Drawing SK 1)
“Planting Plan, World’s End Reservation,” prepared by Sean Papich Landscape Architecture, 222 North Street, Hingham, MA, dated November 1, 2016, revised through January 5, 2016
“World’s End Visitors’ Hut – Proposed Floor Plan & Elevations” and “World’s End Visitors’ Center – Partial Site Plan & Section,” prepared by Strekalovsky Architecture Inc., 42 North Street, Hingham, MA, respectively dated November 29, 2016 and November 11, 2016
“The Trustees of Reservation World’s End Traffic and Parking Management Plan,” dated January 25, 2017, with the following attachments: “Worlds End Yearly Program Offerings and Engagement Outline;” “Public Programs and Offerings at Worlds End, April 2016 – March 2017;” and “Security Protocol”
SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS
This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the “Board”) on the application of The Trustees of Reservations (the “Applicant” or “The Trustees”) for a Special Permit A1 under § III-A, 3.7 of the Zoning By-Law (the “By-Law”) and such other relief as necessary to improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation and increase parking in conjunction with a planned visitor center and gatehouse relocation project at Worlds End Reservation, 0 Off Martins Lane (Map 20 Lot 60), in the Official and Open Space District.
The Board of Appeals opened the hearing on the application at a duly advertised and noticed public hearing on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, along with a concurrent hearing on a simultaneously filed variance application for certain dimensional relief from § IV-B, 1. and 5. of the By-Law. The Board of Appeals panel consisted of its regular members Joseph W. Freeman, Chairman, Robyn S. Maguire, and Joseph M. Fisher. Subsequent substantive hearings were held before the Board on November 2, 2016, November 16, 2016, and January 25, 2017. Members of the Board also participated in a site visit to the Property held on October 28, 2016. The Board was assisted in its review by peer review reports completed on behalf of the Planning Board by John Chessia, P.E., Chessia Consulting Services, LLC, and Jeffrey S. Dirk, P.E., PTOE, FITE, Vanasse & Associates, Inc. The Chief of Police, Glenn Olsson, also attended the hearings before the Board and testified on the anticipated impacts of the proposed project.
The Applicant was in attendance at all hearings. Attorney Daniel A. Brewer represented The Trustees. General Manager Fran Blanchard, Capital Project Manager Robert Murray, John C. Cavanaro, P.E., Project Architects Vcevy Strekalovsky and Mark Coughlin, and Landscape Architect Sean Papich appeared on behalf of the Trustees to present the application.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to grant a Special Permit under § III-A, 3.6 of the By-Law and such other relief as necessary to improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation and increase parking in conjunction with a planned visitor center and gatehouse relocation project at Worlds End Reservation, 0 Off Martins Lane (Map 20 Lot 60), in the Official and Open Space District. Throughout its deliberations, the Board has been mindful of the statements of the Applicant and the comments of the general public, all as made or received at the public hearing, including written comments received by the Zoning Administrator and included in the public record.
BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION
The subject property consists of approximately 251 acres of land known as the World's End Reservation, which is owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservations. The Trustees of Reservation was originally created by a special act of the Legislature in 1891 “for the purpose of acquiring, holding, arranging, maintaining and opening to the public, under suitable regulations, beautiful and historical places and tracts of land with the Commonwealth” and for that purpose “may acquire and hold…real estate such as it may deem worthy of preservation for the enjoyment of the public.” (Acts of 1891, Chapter 352) as publically accessible open space. In 2008, the Applicant adopted restated Articles of Organization as a not for profit corporation under the provisions of MGL c. 108. These restated Articles include the additional purpose of “educating the public with regard to natural and historic resources and their conservation stewardship.”
The Property consists of a peninsula located between Hingham Harbor and the Weir River. Glacial action shaped the land into two tall drumlins, which are joined by a narrow beach of rough sand. Visitors access the Reservation from Martins Lane, which is a designated Scenic Road that also provides access to a neighborhood that otherwise predominately consists of single-family homes.
As represented by the Applicant, the proposed "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project" includes both physical improvements and operational changes intended to both improve the visitor experience and mitigate existing impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.
The existing parking areas will be reconfigured and expanded to provide additional parking to meet existing visitor demand. The current parking lot consists of approximately 74 spaces. The initial application proposed increasing the number of spaces to 122. The Applicant informed the Board that based on input from the public, discussions with the Planning Board, and further review by the Applicant, the proposed plan was revised such that the total number of parking spaces will be 107.
Vehicular and pedestrian circulation will be improved. A new circular drive will be constructed to accommodate a bus drop-off as well as provide a convenient means of reversing direction, particularly when the parking lot is full. The width of existing site drives will be modestly widened to a consistent 20’, which is the minimum driveway width required for two-way travel under Section V-A, 3. of the By-Law. Additionally, the driveway to the site will be widened to 22’ to allow vehicles to enter and exit the site at the same time. Relocation of the existing gatehouse to an interior portion of the site will eliminate period backups onto Martins Lane resulting from the existing check-in operations on peak visitation days. Finally, the project also includes new trail heads to better direct pedestrians into the park.
The proposed plan includes construction of a Visitors Center that will include space for interpretative signage, composting toilets, membership processing, and storage. During the course of the hearings, the Applicant significantly reduced the scale of the originally proposed building in response to abutter concerns about the potential visual impact of the building. The revised architectural plans reduced the originally proposed building footprint and height by 45% and 20% respectively.
A number of proposed operational changes would accompany the physical improvements. These include modernizing POS software to improve admission efficiency; increasing staffing levels on weekends to better manage visitors; and providing real-time updates on parking availability on weekends through social media. The application included several tables summarizing visitation data collected in recent years by type of program offered. The Applicant represented that the current level of programming would be maintained following completion of the Project. The Applicant committed to implementation of measures identified in a “Traffic and Parking Management Plan” to mitigate impacts on the neighborhood that may arise during certain large events and peak holidays or weekends with favorable forecasts.
During the hearing, the Board discussed the use of the property and determined that the "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project," including the Visitors Center, could be authorized pursuant to a Special Permit A1 under Section III-A, 3.6 (Private non-profit library, museum, or community center) rather than as originally requested by the Applicant under Section III-A, 3.7 (Country, golf, swimming, skating, yacht, or tennis club, or other social, civic, or recreational lodge or club – not conducted as a business).
Based on the information submitted and presented during the hearing, and subject to satisfaction of the conditions set forth below, the Board made the following findings:
a. The proposed use will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Zoning By-Law, for the following reasons:
The project will fulfill the following general purposes of the By-Law: lessen congestion in the streets, facilitate the adequate provision of parks, open space, and other public requirements, conserve natural resources, and encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the Town. By securing and providing for the managed landscape of the 251-acre World's End Reservation, but providing special programs and events referred to in the application, by implementing the proposed "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project", and by enhancing the visitor experience in a manner that is sensitive to and mitigates impact on the surrounding neighborhood, the use of the site is in harmony with the stated purposes and intent of the By-Law.
b. The proposed use complies with the purposes and standards of the relevant specific sections of this By-Law, for the following reasons:
The proposed use complies with the specific standards of the By-Law as modified through a dimensional variance to modestly widen the existing site drives to comply with Section V-A, 3. and construction of handicapped parking within required setbacks to the adjacent residential district.
c. The specific site is an appropriate location for such use, structure, or condition, compatible with the characteristics of the surrounding area, for the following reasons:
The proposed plan locates the Visitors Center in the existing developed parking area, thereby minimizing impacts on the surrounding open space area. The project will be constructed in an appropriate location for the both the Visitors Center and the expanded parking area.
d. The use as developed and operated will create positive impacts or potential adverse impacts will be mitigated, for the following reasons:
The proposed site improvements include widening the entrance and driveways to accommodate two-way travel, adding 33 parking spaces, relocating the gatehouse away from the entrance, which also eliminates a dimensional nonconformity associated with the gatehouse, and constructing a Visitors Center which better serves users. In conjunction with a number of operational changes, these improvements will create positive impacts or adverse impacts will be minimized.
e. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians, for the following reasons:
Vehicle queuing on Martins Lane will be reduced through implementation of the "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project" and the “Traffic and Parking Management Plans.” New footpaths and trail heads will provide safer access to the property for visitors by separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic.
f. Adequate and appropriate facilities exist or will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use, for the following reasons:
The Visitors Center will provide improved restroom facilities for the public. Traffic circulation and parking upgrades, including ADA compliant parking spaces, will also support continued operation of the property.
g. The proposed Project meets accepted design standards and criteria for the functional design of facilities, structures, stormwater management, and site construction, for the following reasons:
The Applicant’s submissions demonstrate that the proposed use meets accepted design standards and criteria.
Upon a motion made by Robyn S. Maguire and seconded by Joseph M. Fisher, the Board voted unanimously to APPROVE the Special Permit A1 under § III-A, 3.6 of the By-Law and such other relief as necessary to improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation and increase parking in conjunction with a planned visitor center and gatehouse relocation project at Worlds End Reservation, 0 Off Martins Lane (Map 20 Lot 60), in the Official and Open Space District, subject to the following conditions:
1. The Applicant shall construct the Project in a manner consistent with the approved plans and the representations made at the hearings before the Board such that future programming will be limited to those detailed in attachments to the "World's End Traffic and Parking Management Plan," dated January 25, 2017, entitled “Worlds End Yearly Program Offerings and Engagement Outline” and “Public Programs and Offerings at Worlds End, April 2016 – March 2017.” Substantially more frequent or intensive programming shall require the Applicant to request modification of this Decision.
2. Use of the proposed building or property for commercial third-party events shall require the Applicant to request modification of this Decision.
3. No food concessions shall be offered in the Visitors Center.
4. Construction shall be limited to the hours between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm on weekdays and 8:00 am and 7:00 pm on weekends. Blasting activities, if found to be necessary, shall the Applicant to request a modification of this Decision.
5. Operational and staffing changes as detailed in the "World's End Traffic and Parking Management Plan" shall be implemented by the Applicant immediately.
6. Six months following completion of the “Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project," and in no event later than January 2018, the Applicant shall submit a request to the Board to review the project impacts during a public hearing. The Applicant shall provide with the request documentation sufficient for the Board to determine the extent of the impacts, including but not limited to visitation numbers, traffic counts, and frequency of police details. The Board reserves the right to impose additional conditions related to the use of the Property during this hearing.
7. After installation, the Applicant shall water the plantings identified on the Landscape Plan until established, or for a minimum of one growing season. The Applicant shall replace plantings in kind as needed.
This decision shall not take effect until a copy of the decision bearing the certification of the Town Clerk that twenty (20) days have elapsed since the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed, or that if such appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, is recorded with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and/or the Plymouth County Land Court Registry, and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the record owner or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.
For the Board of Appeals,
Joseph M. Fisher
February 10, 2017