by Frank Schroth
The Falconi Companies held a public meeting at the Milton Art Center last Friday to update the community on plans to open a restaurant at the location of the old Milton Cinema on Adams Street in East Milton and to receive comments and questions from the community. And receive them she did. There were concerns voiced over traffic and parking impacts to the area overall and adverse light and noise on immediate abutters.
The meeting was conducted by local attorney Marion McEttrick who is representing the Falconi Companies with the proposal. She introduced the project and explained that the proposal would be going before the Milton Board of Appeals (BoA) for approval. The project needs to go before the BoA due to parking requirements. However, Ms.McEttrick (who once served on the BoA) noted a couple of times during the evening that the judgement on sufficient parking is discretionary on the part of the BoA. There is no hard and fast requirement of parking spaces.
The Falconis have purchased a couple of homes on Church Street which will be razed to create a parking lot with 23 spaces. The Falconis will also use a lot they currently own to handle the restaurant parking. The two lots together will provide over 60 parking spaces which Ms. McEttrick “would be more than sufficient”.
The meeting was attended by approximately 60+ people including several town officials. Selectmen Conlon and Keohane were there along with Jim McAuliffe, Town Treasurer, Ed Duffy, Planning Board member, Bill Clark, Town Planner, and Richard Wells, Chief of Police. Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Duffy both live in the area.
Concerns centered on traffic and parking. However, residents who lived on Church Street or nearby also voiced concerns about noise especially if there is outdoor seating which is being proposed. One resident said “You don’t have absolutes [regarding where people park] . . . They [restaurant employees] park on Franklin and they park on Church. . . you are taking away our ability to back out of our driveway. . . I am not building a fortress because they want a restaurant.” Another resident expressed concern over the effect it could have on the square’s character.
Ms. McEttrick said she understood the concerns regarding noise and light and that efforts would be made to address them. Enforcement of service zone parking was also discussed. McEttrick noted that businesses pay the town for service zone parking. Chief Wells said the department issued 5,000 parking tickets a year. He also noted that the advent of parking on the deck coupled with improved signalization throughout the square should help address both the parking and traffic concerns. Ms. McEttrick said the proposed parking on the deck would help but that the plans did not factor that into the mix. The proposal, she said, provides adequate parking independent of the additional public parkng the deck will provide.
It was noted that Abby Park currently uses the existing Falconi lot and questions were raised about where those cars would go if lot was no longer available to them. McEttrick said that Abby Park may need to go back before the town. However, she also said that the restaurant was in discussions with Citizens and Sovereign Banks over using their lots.
The Falconis are working with Vance Welch of Abby Park. Mr Welch is in support of the new restaurant and there is speculation that the two restaurants may in fact be co-managed with the new restaurant being a high end Italian spot.
Asked about alternatives to a restaurant, Ms. McEttrick said a 45′ office building with parking underneath or residential units could be options. She felt it would be a shame to put in housing as there is so little commercial in the area and that housing could be more intrusive at which point someone yelled out, “There’s housing there now!” That was one of several small somewhat testy moments.
One resident claimed that work on the building had been taking place on Sundays. Chief Wells took exception to that statement saying he wanted the work described to be “factual”. He said a permit had been taken out for work on a single Sunday and that the work took place between the hours of 9 and 5. Another resident, who said he was an architect, complained about the “substantial” changes to the building which he said were “unfortunate.” Mr. Facloni disagreed saying the changes were simply to restore the original brick, replace old wooden doors and windows with aluminum (and in the case of doors make them ADA compliant) and add an aesthetic marquee. The Falconis are also paying for reconstruction of the sidewalk. This is typically an expense that would be born by the town. The sidewalk was uneven, a safety risk, and was channeling water toward the building which contributed to the building’s deterioration.
The BoA will be hearing the application tomorrow night, 11/18. Ed Duffy, a member of the Planning Board who lives in East Milton, said he was “utterly opposed to this project. . . we live in an ancient neighborhood. . . [and] this will help destroy it.” He urged residents to attend the BoA meeting and speak up to defeat this proposal. Paul Traverse of the Traverse Companies whose business is located in East Milton challenged Mr. Duffy saying “It’s not 1945 – people want to be able to walk to places. We need growth. [The square] is getting stagnant . . . Eddie it is not 1945. It’s 2014. It’s a new millennium. Catch up!” Mr. Traverse is also a member of the Master Plan Committee.
Ms. McEttrick concluded her remarks and the discussion saying she had spoken at length with the Falconis and that “I believe this is the best way to use this space. This is a low impact use.”