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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 variances from § IV-B, 1. and 5. 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 special permit application under § III-A, 3.7 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. Police Chief, 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 variances from § IV-B, 1. and 5. 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.
The subject property consists of a peninsula, approximately 251 acres in size, 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. The area which encompasses the current site entrance, parking, and associated circulation consists of a narrow upland. The Damde Meadows wetlands are located to the north of this area and ledge is interspersed throughout.
The proposed "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project" includes physical improvements and operational changes intended to improve visitor facilities. The onsite parking supply will be increased from 74 to 107 spaces in order to meet current demand. Existing site drives will be widened to accommodate two-way travel through the site and a new circular drive will be installed to provide a bus drop off as well as a convenient means of reversing direction, particularly when the parking lot reaches capacity. An existing bottleneck will be eliminated by widening the entrance driveway and relocating the existing gatehouse where visitors check into the site to an interior location. These improvements are also intended to mitigate existing impacts on the surrounding neighborhood caused by periodic backups onto Martins Lane during peak visitation days. Finally, a Visitors Center will be constructed to provide space for interpretative signage, composting toilets, membership processing, and storage.
A number of proposed operational changes would accompany these physical improvements, including: 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.
Special Requirements under § IV-B of the By-Law require increased setbacks from residential districts for certain improvements proposed on properties within the Official and Open Space District. Specifically, Special Requirement 1. prohibits buildings, structures, parking areas or septic systems from locating within 100’ of a residential district. Special Requirement 5. additionally requires a 50’-wide green yard along the entire length of each side lot line that abuts a Residence C District. The Property was acquired and originally improved by the Applicant prior to adoption of the Official and Open Space District in 1977. As a result, certain existing improvements, including the gatehouse and portions of the site drives and parking areas are nonconforming with respect to these Special Requirements. A modest amount of dimensional relief is required to complete the proposed "Parking, Circulation and Amenities Project" as detailed below:
1. Relief from Special Requirement 1 for Parking Improvements
The existing parking areas will be reconfigured and expanded to provide additional parking to meet current existing visitor demand. The existing 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. The revised plan eliminated several parking spaces that would have required zoning relief; however, 5 handicapped parking spaces will still be constructed within 100’ of a residential district, although such spots will all be further than 60’ from the residential district. In compliance with ADA requirements, these handicapped parking spaces were sited so as to reduce the length of the accessible travel path to the proposed Visitor’s Center; the Center itself is located more than 100’ from a residential district.
Extent of Requested Relief
1,185 SF area, consisting of 5 ADA accessible parking spaces
2. Relief from Special Requirement 5 for Circulation Improvements
The Project will result in a modest increase in the width of existing nonconforming site drives to a consistent 20’, which is the minimum driveway width required for two-way travel under Section V-A, 3. of the By-Law. A new circular drive will also 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.
Extent of Requested Relief
1,590 SF additional driveway surface
973 SF offset for removal of existing driveway areas
617 SF net increase in driveway surface
During the course of its discussions, the Board noted that the proposed relocation of the existing gatehouse to an interior portion of the site will eliminate an existing nonconformity associated with its current location within 100’ of a residential district.
The Board considered and evaluated substantial comments from consultants and members of the public on the proposed project.
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:
1. There are circumstances relating to soil conditions, shape or topography especially affecting the land but not affecting generally the zoning district. The area which encompasses the current entrance, parking, and associated circulation consists of a narrow upland. The area is bounded by, and is closely associated with, significant conservation resources including the Damde Meadows wetlands to the north. Further to the north are meadows, fields, intertidal rocky shores, and drumlins. Ledge is interspersed throughout. The shape and topography of the lot significantly limit the area available for improvements. These circumstances in combination especially affect the lot and not generally the zoning district.
2. The literal enforcement of the Bylaws would involve substantial hardship financial or otherwise. Physical and regulatory barriers exist based on these circumstances that preclude alternative location of the circulation drives and handicapped parking spaces. Literal enforcement of the By-Law would limit the Applicant from improving the Property in a manner intended to meet visitor demand under current operation of the Reservation and would thus negatively affect the overall use and enjoyment of the Property. Literal enforcement could result in a project that involved more substantial earthwork. Literal enforcement would also prevent the Applicant from mitigating existing traffic impacts experienced during peak visitation in the surrounding neighborhood. A grant of a Variance in this instance will allow for a reasonable use that is consistent with Official & Open Space Zoning District.
3. A variance may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good. The requested variance relates to a relatively small area and the proposed incursions have been minimized to the extent feasible. The proposed project will improve the existing operations of the property and mitigate current traffic and parking-related impacts on the adjacent neighborhood. There will not be a substantial detriment to the public good resulting from the proposed variance relief. It has been demonstrated through the hearing that the project has been designed to alleviate problems that have affected the public.
4. A variance may be granted without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purposes of the Bylaw. 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. The project will modestly increase the width of preexisting nonconforming site drives, resulting in an additional 617 SF of driveway within the required 50’-wide green yard space adjacent to Residence District C; however, the increase will make the existing driveways more conforming with respect to the minimum driveway width required under Section V-A, 3. of the Zoning By-Law. Another 1,185 SF incursion into the required 100’ setback related to parking areas will result from the proposed handicapped parking area, but again, the location was limited by soil, shape, and topographical challenges, as well as ADA requirements. These incursions will not substantially derogate from the purposes of the By-Law. The plan will also eliminate a nonconformity associated with the gatehouse. Accordingly, the granting of a dimensional variance in this instance is consistent with the intent of the By-Law.
Upon a motion made by Robyn S. Maguire and seconded by Joseph M. Fisher, the Board voted unanimously to grant variances from § IV-B, 1. and 5. 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