Electric-vehicle signs, Bluebike expansion, parking revisions also approved

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UPDATED Aug. 3: The Select Board, after much discussion Monday, barely passed the license for a new liquor store on Mass. Ave. in the Capitol Square district of East Arlington. 

In contrast, three transportation-related issues -- new signs for electric vehicles, an expansion of Bluebike stations and updates to the overnight parking pilot program -- were unanimously approved.

And a new restaurant, with cuisine not entirely dissimilar to that of its immediate predecessor, also won out 5-0.

Taking center stage July 17 was the renewed consideration of City Wine and Spirits -- previously proposed as City Wine, Spirits, and Smoke Shop -- where Rainbow Cleaners had previously been

Revision requested

Town Council Douglas Heim reminded listeners that at the previous board meeting, the applicant was asked to formally revise the application to be more consistent with the intent -- the main bone of contention having been the word “smoke” in the original title of the business. Read the June news summary >> 

ACMi video of July 17 meeting:

Again, attorney Andrew F. Upton spoke on behalf of the applicant/owner, Yashika Patel, a Cambridge resident who could not attend. Instead, her husband, Nilesh Patel, represented the company.

Upton began by speaking highly of Yashika Patel’s character and experience and especially noted that she is approved in Boston and Tewksbury to hold a liquor license.

Upton pointed out that City Wine and Spirits as proposed in Arlington would be a family business committed to having a well-trained staff and a security system with close to 30 cameras. It is to be a boutique wine store featuring wine tastings and wine education, he said, suggesting that this aspect would attract more high-end clientele than would a traditional package store.

Signatures of support

“We have 85 signatures of support,” said Upton. “And Venice Italian Kitchen and Novita Salon and Spa, two neighboring businesses, are in support,” he added.

Upton talked of the current level of excitement within the neighborhood regarding the business. Besides collecting signatures, the ownership was able to talk to residents and passersby, who gave feedback. For instance, some people requested they also sell kombucha, wanted the store to be dog-friendly and to provide guidance on products available.

He touched on the parking concern, saying that because the space has a long history of being a retail outlet that there should not be any significant impact.

Last, Upton mentioned the closing of a somewhat similar nearby business -- Menotomy Beer, Wine and Spirits, at 80 Broadway. 

“[It is] on a list of wholesalers they owe money [to]… looks like they owe at least $10,000, have some liens against the business,” he said. He suggested that since that structure is closed, fenced off and planned to be destroyed, there now would be a need in the area for a boutique wine shop.

Property owner comments

Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth then opened the forum to public comments.

Lisa Cronin, property owner of the location at issue, 232 Mass. Ave., spoke first. Cronin said that for more than 50 years, a member of her family has continuously managed the building into which the applicant proposes to operate -- but that the pandemic’s effect has been brutal.

“We were able to work with all the other businesses [prepandemic], but the [previous occupant] dry cleaner couldn’t stay in business,” she said.

Cronin refered to two years and an estimated combined $100,000 in foregone rent and necessary renovations. Of the Patels, she said, [They are the] best tenants we’ve found, and that opportunity is rare in a post-Covid [-19] environment.” She mentioned that she had hired a real-estate broker to search for a suitable tenant. She closed her statement by saying, “No misunderstanding – I want what is best for Arlington.”

Suzanne Conway, a broker with Cabot & Co., said she had been showing the property for more than a year -- and that the Patel family is “the strongest applicant so far.” She added, “[It would be] “nice to fill that space and lift the property values in the area.”

She talked about how competent the Patel family is. “They’ll do a great job with the space.” 

Opposing views

However, neighborhood resident Peter Fiore was opposed. He pointed out what he believes to be inconsistencies and an overall misrepresentation from the applicant. Fiore said he had gone so far as to visit the Patels' two other similar businesses -- and found empty storefronts in both instances. 

“In East Arlington, there’s a balance,” Fiore said. “We have two ice-cream stores and two package stores. I don’t want to be [in a town] where the package stores outnumber the ice-cream stores.”

Another local resident, Walter Fey, echoed Fiore, saying there is another liquor store some four blocks away. He said he sympathizes with the landlord.  “But how is another liquor store going to enhance the quality of the neighborhood?”

Ryan Cronin, the property owner's son, said his family wanted to ensure a solid tenant. “That’s what we feel we did. They’re the best [prospective] tenants. What we think is best for the town is to put them in there.”

Susanna Fichera - a condo owner whose narrow driveway abuts the location at issue and who said she has had problems with its previous tenants, was opposed. “There’s already two [liquor] stores within the Capitol Square block,” she said, predicting that City Wine if approved would negatively impact her daily life.

Before board members asked questions, Upton was given a chance to clarify concerns regarding the two similar businesses that Mrs. Patel already owns elsewhere. Upton explained that she had been approved for a liquor license in those two other municipalities but has yet to open the stores to the public.

DeCourcey concerns: management, parking, traffic

Board member Stephen DeCourcey said that because Mrs. Patel is designated as a manager at both of those non-Arlington locations, he wondered whether there would be a change to either one.

Upton replied that in a typical application process, a manager must be named, and that usually the business owner is named essentially as a placeholder to manage construction and opening. Once a retail outlet is up and running, then the usual practice is to hire a general manager and to file a change of manager application.

DeCourcey asked when deliveries would be made to the store. “Between 9 a.m. and noon,” answered Mr. Patel, adding that wine and liquor are ordered every two weeks, while beer is weekly.

Helmuth asked about something that Upton had previously stated -- about the proposed store refraining from selling items such as lottery tickets, tobacco, kegs, single servings (nips) and candy. Helmuth asked Upton whether he would be comfortable with a condition restricting the sale of those items; Upton said he welcomed the condition.

License ultimately approved

Before the vote, board member Lenard Diggins gave his advice, emphasizing that City Wine if approved ought not block the adjoining driveway. “It’ll keep the neighbors happy,” he said.

Board member Diane Mahon said it was a big positive that the applicant would agree to the suggested conditions.

DeCourcey’s biggest concerns continued to be parking and traffic, he said, and he wondered aloud whether a liquor store was appropriate for the site.

Vice Chair John Hurd said he was comfortable that the applicant could run a successful business there. He said it would be a tough road ahead regarding zoning but he also noted that the location now is an empty storefront.

“We want to put a business there,” he said, adding that he believes that its proximity to other liquor stores had been overstated by others.

A motion was made noting the imposed conditions – not selling nips, kegs, malt liquor, candy, lottery tickets or any form of tobacco, and also the necessity of applying for zoning relief within six months.

The license finally was approved, 3-2, with DeCourcey and Helmuth opposed.

Restaurant named for spice due in Center
Ananda Pokhrel requested and got approval to operate a restaurant at 444 Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center. Pokherl said he and his partner had bought an existing business, Rangla Punjab, and changed the name to Turmeric House. The new restaurant will specialize in Indian and Nepalese cuisine and be open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.
 
“We’ve been looking to do business in Arlington for a while, and luckily we got the place and are eager to do business in town,” said Pokherl.
 
Before the vote, Mahon said, "Just so you know, we have a lot of residences that are near the businesses. There seems to be this unusual thing that happens that when a new restaurant and/or manager comes in: Somehow the delivery trucks, which have a routine established with the previous restaurant or manager, sometimes bump you to a new, inopportune time for the neighbors. So if you could make sure when you’re there, you want to keep the same times.”
 
Pokherl agreed to adhere to the established delivery times.The vote to approve was unanimous.
Electric buses on the way

In other business, Talia Fox, Arlington’s sustainability manager, requested approval for signs for the four charging stations at the Ottoson Middle School lower parking lot. Two of them would be dedicated to electric school buses, while the other two would be for school personnel.

Two electric school buses, and two direct current (DC) fast-charging stations specifically for the buses, were purchased after the town received federal and state funds. An additional dual-port Level II charger was later added to the project to meet the high demand for charging stations. 

Fox requested signs for the DC fast-charging stations for two adjacent parking spots, to read, “No Parking Except Electric School Bus.”

She also requested signs for the Level II chargers for two adjacent parking spots saying, “No Parking Except While Charging” plus a plaque saying, “VEHICLE MUST BE PLUGGED IN.” 

She also said that there should be signs at all spots indicating that violators may be towed. She emphasized that any nonschool staff parked in these spots during school hours could be subject to a ticket and/or being towed at the owner’s expense.

The tentative schedule is as follows, said Fox: By the end of August, the distribution cabinet could be delivered and the charging stations energized. She noted that electric buses would be ready for use at the start of the school year -- and said she hoped for a potential ribbon cutting at Town Day on Sept. 23.

The request was approved unanimously, 5-0.

Another transportation issue: bicycles

John Alessi, Arlington’s senior transportation planner, sought approval for two on-street Bluebikes bicycle stations -- one at the Minuteman Bikeway on Mill Street and one at Arlington High School. Based on a resident survey from spring 2022 with 320 responses received, these were the top two preferred locations, he said.

Neither location would have any potential negative impacts on traffic flow or pedestrians, he said. Alessi also stated that there would be no advertising panels installed at either location, so there would not be any overall obstructions to drivers or pedestrians.

The measure was approved unanimously, 5-0.

Overnight-parking revisions approved

Overnight-parking ban sign

The vote on revisions to the pilot version of the overnight parking program, approved June 28, did not attract much discussion and was unanimously approved, 5-0.

Diggins said there would be another update in the future.


For all July 17 agenda items, click here >>
 
June 28, 2023: 2 parking measures, override election, restaurant all get thumbs-up at Select Board 

 


This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Tony Moschetto was published Wednesday, July 19, 2023. It was updated July 22, 2023, to add a brief account of a "common victualler" license granted for an Indian-Nepalese restaurant in the Arlington Center neighborhood of Arlington. It was updated Aug. 3, 2023, to add a link to a business mentioned in the text.

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