Commentary by Frank Schroth
Last Friday the Falconis along with their attorney Marion McEttrick held a public meeting to discuss their proposal for a restaurant for East Milton and receive community feedback (see related post here). Ms. McEttrick reviewed the plan, which calls for a 160-seat high end restaurant at the location of the old Milton Cinema. They have plans to create a parking lot on Church Street, which together with their existing lot will provide ~60 spaces. It is a good plan, and while there are some legitimate concerns, they should not be showstoppers to a business that can bring the square and the town benefits that matter.
First, regarding traffic, it is not an issue as it relates to the plans for this restaurant. If successful, the patronage may create some inconvenience for neighborhood residents just as Steel & Rye does on the west side of town. Is it going to be the traffic Armageddon described by neighbors at the meeting on Friday? No.
There is no question that East Milton has a traffic problem, but this business, and if it goes forward (pray to God), will not move the needle on that traffic meter one way of the other. First, the traffic it generates will largely be after hours when the primary thoroughfares of Granite Ave and Adams Street are clear. Second, the reason we have a traffic problem in East Milton is that we have an expressway running through it. More specifically, we have on and off ramps. Traffic has often been described as a flow of water – stop it up in one place and it will flow to another. Well, consider on and off ramps like drains; that is where it all gets sucked up or pumped out. The restaurant’s presence will not change that.
Parking is more likely to be an issue. However, plans are in place to address it as described above. The Falconis are in discussion with Vance Welch who owns Abby Park on the impact it will have on his business (i.e. Abby Park uses a Facloni lot). In fact, while it is mere speculation, there is a chance that Mr. Welch will operate both restaurants and they might share parking. Separately, Mr. Welch is discussing a parking arrangement with Sovereign Bank and has one with Citizens Bank. It’s an issue and it is being managed.
Similarly, noise and light could be issues; but, again, these are solvable problems.
The benefits? First, commercial and meals tax and second, commercial and meals tax. This business is going into a commercially zoned district by a known developer and is possibly going to be managed by a known restauranteur. It will inject sorely needed energy into what one business owner in the square characterized as a stale district. The footprint and height will remain the same. The benefits to the square specifically, and the town in general, are significant. The impact to the neighborhood negligible.
The town is seeing an opportunity for commercial development at the site of the Hendries building disappear for reasons that we may never understand. That is a loss as is any opportunity to lighten the load of property taxes on Milton homeowners. It is one thing to raise a ruckus over the possible expansion of businesses into residential neighborhoods; it is a bit rich to fight commercial development and renewal in an established commercial district. To shrink the commercial tax base in this community makes no sense.
Tonight the Board of Appeals will hold a hearing on the proposal for a restaurant. The issue before them will be the adequacy of the parking. They have discretion on this issue. We sincerely hope the board determines the plans the Falconis have put in place to be sufficient and that they look at the facts, the industry standards, and rule accordingly.