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Board of Appeals



Applicant/Owner: Town of Hingham
Recreation Commission
210 Central Street
Hingham, MA 02043

Property: 0 Hull Street, Hingham, MA 02043
Assessor’s Map 43, Lot 19

Title Reference: Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Book 1759, Page 270

Plan References: Plan entitled, "Site Plan, Hull Street Playground - Hingham," prepared by Cavanaro Consulting, 687 Main Street, Norwell, MA, dated July 20, 2018 and revised through August 8, 2018 (1 Sheet) and conceptual rendering of proposed play equipment, prepared by Shaped by Play Landscape Structures, dated June 21, 2018 (1 Sheet)


This matter came before the Zoning Board of Appeals (the "Board") on the application of the Town of Hingham Recreation Department (the “Applicant”) for Variances from §§ IV-A and IV-B of the Zoning By-Law (the “By-Law”) and such other relief as necessary to install playground equipment and portions of a parking area within required front yard setbacks and green strips at 0 Hull Street (Map 43, Lot 19) in the Official and Open Space District.

A public hearing was duly noticed and held on August 21, 2018 at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street. The Board panel consisted of its regular members Robyn S. Maguire, Chair, and Joseph M. Fisher, and associate member Michael Mercurio. Applicant representatives, including John Cavanaro, P.E., Project Engineer, Mark Thorell, Recreation Director, and Vicki Donlan, Recreation Commission Chair, appeared to present the application. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to grant the requested relief to install playground equipment and portions of a parking area within required front yard setbacks and green strips, subject to conditions set forth below.

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.


The subject property consists of approximately 5.84 acres of land, located at the corner of Hull and Canterbury Streets, and partially developed as an existing recreational area. Areas of open grass field, ledge outcroppings, woodlands, and wetlands are present on the site. The narrative submitted with the application also describes soils in this area as poor with a likely shallow separation from bedrock.

The proposed plan calls for installation of playground equipment and an associated 12-space parking area where a lawn covered plateau presently exists. The proposed location is easily accessed from Hull Street by both pedestrians and drivers and would necessitate minimal disturbance of the site, which otherwise experiences variable topography and poor soil conditions. However, the existing plateau area on which the playground would be located falls within 8’ of Hull Street where a 40’ front yard setback is required in the Official and Open Space District under Section IV-A of the By-Law. Additionally, Special Requirements applicable in the District as provided for under Sections IV-B, 2. and 5. limit structures and parking areas within 15’ – 20’ of the entire street frontage, instead requiring landscaping or green yard space. Certain playground equipment and a relatively small portion of the proposed parking lot would not comply with these standards. The playground itself would again be sited 8’ from Hull Street, though the play structures themselves would be located with a minimum front setback of 12’. The proposed parking area at its closest would be 12’ from Hull Street. The revised plan depicts proposed landscape screening consisting of evergreens between the sidewalk and an existing fence.

During the hearing, the Board discussed the proximity of the proposed improvements to the front property line. Members determined that by right locations were impractical as relocation of the playground and associated parking area would require both significant earthwork due to the presence of ledge and an additional regulatory review based on proximity to onsite wetland resource areas.

During the hearing, abutters expressed concern related to parking and safety. Staff noted that the Planning Board had previously issued a Site Plan Approval and Special Permit A3: Parking Determination for the project, so both the parking configuration and the number of spaces had been approved, adding that the Zoning Board review is principally limited to the location of a portion of the parking lot with the required green yard space from Hull Street. The Board confirmed that landscaping, consisting of evergreens, would be planted between the sidewalk and fence in an effort to mitigate impacts associated with the parking area. The Town also incorporated safety features, including a wooden guardrail and chain link fence to respectively separate the play area from the parking area and adjoining roadways, in order to address potential safety concerns.

The Board also discussed the stormwater improvements proposed in connection with the plan. The project engineer indicated that the proposed pavement would be pitched away from Hull Street, with stormwater directed across a grass filter strip before entering a crushed stone trench. Overflow would flow into an existing field and ultimately into onsite wetlands. The Board confirmed that the submitted Stormwater Report and management plans were peer reviewed by Amory Engineers on behalf of the Planning Board.


Based upon the information submitted and received at the hearing, and the deliberations and discussion during the hearing, the Board has determined that:

1. Circumstances related to soil, shape, or topography especially affect the land or structure in question: The property is significantly impacted by ledge outcroppings and related topographical changes as well as areas of poor soil, with shallow separation from bedrock. These circumstances do not generally affect the zoning district.

2. Owing to these circumstances, literal enforcement of the By-Law would involve substantial hardship: Literal enforcement would require significant land disturbance and ledge removal, making the project economically infeasible. Greater setbacks from Hull Street would additionally locate the playground and associated parking area within required buffers to an onsite wetland resource area. The identified circumstances, related both to topography and soils, result in practical and regulatory barriers to any by-right location of the proposed project.

3. Relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good: The proposed playground and parking area as designed will minimize the impact and cost of the project while maximizing accessibility to the proposed improvements by both vehicles and pedestrians. As a result, the improvements as proposed will achieve the project objectives in a manner that would least impact the surrounding residential neighborhood.

4. Relief may be granted without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of the Zoning By-Law: The granting of a dimensional variance in this instance is consistent with the purposes of the By-Law in that the proposed playground and parking area supports an allowed recreational use of the property. The structures that will be located within the setbacks are relatively modest in terms of massing and impacts associated with the parking area will be mitigated through installation of landscaping. Relief will not substantially derogate from the intent of the By-Law.


Upon a motion made by Joseph M. Fisher and seconded by Michael Mercurio, the Board voted unanimously to GRANT the requested Variance from § IV-A of the By-Law and such other relief as necessary to install playground equipment and portions of a parking area within required front yard setbacks and green strips at 0 Hull Street (Map 43, Lot 19) in the Official and Open Space District, subject to the following condition:

1. The work shall be completed in accordance with the approved plans and representations made during the public hearing.

2. Playground equipment or structures shall be not be installed closer than 12’ to front property line or such greater distance as may be required based on fall zones associated with the particular structures.

3. No lighting shall be installed in connection with the Project.

4. The existing chain link fence identified on the approved plan shall be maintained or replaced with comparable fencing to maintain safety.

5. Landscaping shown on the approved plan shall be maintained and replaced as necessary.

The zoning relief granted herein shall not become effective until (i) the Town Clerk has certified on a copy of this Decision that twenty (20) days have elapsed after the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed or that if such an appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, and that (ii) a copy thereof has been duly recorded in the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the owner of record or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.

For the Zoning Board of Appeals,

Robyn S. Maguire, Chair
September 13, 2018