Clark Tavern Hearing Draws Large Audience

It was standing room only at the Jan. 9, 2014, meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals where a hearing was held on the proposed Clark Tavern restoration project.

Rendition of a restored Clark Tavern, 353-355 Main Street in Medfield. Credit: Theresa Knapp.
Rendition of a restored Clark Tavern, 353-355 Main Street in Medfield. Credit: Theresa Knapp.
The Clark Tavern restoration project was before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, and drew a standing-room-only cross-section of residents interested in the project. 

Plans to restore the historic watering hole were first proposed in the fall and raised the interest of many residents, many of whom attended Thursday's meeting. 

The project was before the Planning Board on Jan. 6, 2014, for site plan review, in essence to make sure the project works on the site. At that meeting, residents learned: 

  • A traffic study was presented which showed the sight distance for the driveway is adequate. 
  • A stop sign and line will be installed at the egress of the property onto Main Street. 
  • The applicant confirmed the tavern will have no more than 90 seats.
  • There will be parking for 43 cars on the property; no on-street parking. 
  • There will not be any additional transportation provided from satellite sites to bring people to the site.
  • Deliveries will be less than five a day and will take place during off-peak hours.
  • Live music will be inside the building.
  • There will be no smoking inside the building and smoking elsewhere on the property will be discouraged. 
  • There will likely be eight employees on the property at one time.  
  • The rooftop HVAC system will be at the back of the building where a kitchen (and elevator) addition is proposed; there will be no generator. 
  • Dumpster in back will be screened.
  • Odor will be controlled by HVAC system.
  • Applicant and town will discuss re-striping of Main and Pound Street intersection.
  • A 25 foot buffer strip was added to the left side of the property against the Yankee property by moving some parking spaces to the back. The trees along the property line will stay, a fence will be added. 
  • The driveway on the left side and sidewalk will be pavers, the heavy parking area in the back will be pavement.
  • The Bed and Breakfast rooms will have four bedrooms.
The applicant, the JML Group LLC (Medfield residents John and Michelle Linnert), has applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a Special Permit to run a tavern and bed and breakfast at 353-355 Main Street, under the town's zoning bylaws.  

Attorney James Murphy of Sherborn was hired by neighbors who oppose the project and say it should not be approved because it does not meet the definition of a bed and breakfast. They are have concerns about increased traffic, noise and light, to name a few. 

At the ZBA hearing on Jan. 9 (which lastes 2.5 hours), Attorney Edward Cannon said the restoration project would actually be an improvement for the neighborhood because the current building has been neglected for several years. He argued that the removal of the 'uncertainty' of the future of the property (whose leaking roof is covered with a blue tarp) would improve property values, particularly of an abutting house that is now for sale. 

Cannon said the applicant will not live on-site (they have a family home elsewhere in town) and is seeking a special permit under section 5.6 to restore the property to "reflect the use of the tavern when it was built sometime around 1740."

Cannon said the restoration would be a "reasonable adaptive reuse" under the bylaw and would preserve one of Medfield's historic assets on par with the Peak House (right next door) and the Dwight-Derby House. A "permanent historical restriction" would also be put on the property to ensure its historical features are preserved for the future. 

Cannon said a restoration project similar to this one was likely what the town was thinking about when it passed the bylaw.  

Restoration plans include 90 seats proposed for the property: 42 seats in the downstairs dining room, 12 in the lounge, eight in the breakfast area, and 28 in the upstairs dining room. 

Cannon said the applicants expect to draw half of their customers from those who already travel along Main Street and there would only be a "moderate increase in traffic...We don't expect any noticeable impacts as a result of the project."

Traffic engineer Jason Adams of McMahon & Associates said the project will generate 20 new entering trips and 20 new exiting trips, and would create a "minor increase in delay from Pound Street to Main Street." Most delays created by the project would be felt by patrons trying to exit the site, said Adams noting the sight distance at the exit is 370 feet to the east and 1,100 to the west. 

Other points made by the applicant include: 

  • The restoration project is in the best interest of the town because it preserves town history and eliminates the possibility of the parcel being developed into affordable housing, a commercial equine facility, or assisted living facility (a plan for which was submitted to the town by another applicant on Dec. 12, 2011). 
  • Project can connect to town water and sewer.
  • There will be no noise, light or odor pollution.
  • They are exploring soundproofing insulation.
  • Entertainment would be kept at a low volume so that people can converse easily.
  • "Loud patrons will not be tolerated." 
  • Hours would be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They expect to offer dinner only to the public, and breakfast to the B&B guests. 
  • There will be no 18-wheelers on the property
  • The lot is about nine-tenths of an acre (39,056 square feet).
  • Oxford Dendrochronolgy did a tree-ring dating analysis on the property and "initial findings show the western part of the structure uses wood from the winter of 1740-1741. 
  • The Clark Tavern was a popular stop for travelers on their way to and from Boston.
  • Medfield third graders have taken tours of the house.
"What they're proposing is a reasonable adaptive re-use in order to preserve this historic building and its exactly what's called for under Section 5.6," said Cannon.

James Murphy, the attorney for those opposed to the project, said: 

  • The project does not meet the definition of a "Bed and Breakfast" under the bylaw, and said the project could be classified a hotel or motel. 
  • The ZBA has to ask "Can I accept this?" and "Should I accept this?"
  • Opponents do not agree with the scale of the project. 
  • The amount of impervious area is larger than allowed.
  • It is in an aquifer protection district .
  • Questions whether it meets zoning code.
  • A 25 foot buffer zone is required all around the property which it does not have.
  • Questioned a drainage easement onto an abutting property.
  • Parking has to have a 30-foot setback from the roadway.
  • Concerned with loading in the back of the building (no door proposed on plan)
  • Concerned the ZBA would be setting precedent. 
  • Said portions of the building are not original and will be removed; would applicants take down other parts of the structure? 
ZBA questions included: 

  • Whether the Historic Preservation section of the bylaw pre-empts the requirement of the Bed and Breakfast
  • The difference in pavers and asphalt on the driveway
  • Amount of fill on the property
  • Will cars park on the street?
The hearing was continued to Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. 

Patch will continue to follow this story, and will have reaction from residents and town boards in the Jan. 16 edition of Medfield Patch. Click HERE to have the story sent to your inbox. 

Eileen Sullivan January 15, 2014 at 07:39 AM
If done well, potentially a great asset to the town.
Luanne Perrera January 15, 2014 at 08:45 AM
This sounds like the kind of thing Medfield could really benefit from if fine properly. Seems like a great addition to our town. I think we don't capitalize on our town history and charm enough. I would support more projects if this nature.
Colleen M. Sullivan January 15, 2014 at 09:03 AM
Hoping both parties can find common ground and move this project forward....Medfield can benefit greatly, I believe, with the restoration/renovation of the historic Clark Tavern and a B&B.
Luanne Perrera January 15, 2014 at 09:14 AM
This sounds like the kind of thing Medfield could really benefit from if fine properly. Seems like a great addition to our town. I think we don't capitalize on our town history and charm enough. I would support more projects if this nature.


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