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Clark Tavern: Resident Reaction to Proposed Plans

To have your opinion heard on the project, contact Town Planner Sarah Raposa at sraposa@medfield.net or 508-906-3027.

Clark Tavern, January 2014. Credit: Theresa Knapp
Clark Tavern, January 2014. Credit: Theresa Knapp
Last week, plans were submitted to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals related to the proposed restoration of the Clark Tavern at 353-355 Main Street to a tavern and four-room Bed and Breakfast. 

Here are a few words from residents and town officials who attended those hearings. 

Medfield Chief of Police Robert J. Meaney Jr. had concerns about patrons parking along the street, however, that issue was addressed in revised plans that calls for ample parking on-site.

Meaney said he was initially concerned about the site distance from the sight distance from the second driveway proposed along the easterly side of the project but that driveway has been eliminated. 

Regarding the removal of the second driveway Meaney said, "That's huge. I wasn't going to be real comfy with that." 

Dan Bibel, co-Chairman of the Historical Commission, called the Clark Tavern an important historic property and said he is concerned the property will be "lost" like other historic properties in recent years. 

"This building was a tavern for many years. It's at the gateway to the community and what's being proposed basically brings it back to what it was originally," he said. 

"We've lost a lot of structures in town because of the age of the structure, the condition of the structure, or because an applicant could not be found who would take the structure and do the work needed," said Bibel, noting that the neighbors have legitimate concerns. "The concern that we would have, if this proposal isn't approved by you Gentlemen, would be that the owners will just walk away and the structure will continue to deteriorate and we'll have this 'demolition by neglect' that we've seen in so many cases." 

Selectman Richard DeSorgher (also the Town Historian) said the section of the zoning by-law that applies to this project, and was enacted about 10 years ago, "was created just for an example like the Clark Tavern" because it allows for projects like this in a residential area. 

With the proposed restoration, DeSorgher said, "The house really is coming back full circle," and "would create a "mini-Sturbridge Village affect." 

He said the project was similar to the Sherborn Inn and the Wayside Inn, and would have historic and economic value for Medfield as it would be "putting life back into the historic structure" and the Bed and Breakfast aspect would fill a need in town. 

David Temple, President of the Medfield Historical Society which owns the steward of the abutting Peak House, spoke in favor of the project. 

"I think the Peak House very much complements the Clark Tavern and vice versa," he said.

Temple said he does not think every old building should be saved but said the Clark Tavern is a "crown jewel of Medfield" and it would be a shame if the house was sold to a developer who tore it down and put up a generic house. 

"It's really the best half mile of real estate in Medfield," Temple said of the area around 353-355 Main Street. 

Michael Taylor, Chairman of the Historic District Commission, spoke in favor of the project which would include a preservation easement and would create an historic district of two properties -- the Clark Tavern and neighboring Peak House. 

The preservation easement, which would be the first of its kind in Medfield, would protect architectural aspects of the structure such as the post and beam construction, wainscoting, etc. 

Resident Deborah Marvil, who gave the address 368 Main Street, had concerns about the speed of traffic in the area and stopping distance of fast-moving cars. 

Traffic engineer Jason Adams said, according to his data, 85 percent of cars travel within the speed limit in that area. 

Scott Perkins of 365 Main Street raised concerns about delivery access to the Clark Tavern kitchen. Applicant John Linnert of the JML Group LLC said the kitchen access door would be added to the plans. 

Joanne Bragg of 340 Main Street asked the applicants, "Have you looked at any kind of use...other than anything with a bar?" 

Applicant Michelle Linnert said they had not. 

Chris Potts of 7 Curve Street said she is sympathetic to the concerns of the neighbors but is in favor of the restoration project. She asked when the peak community times are in that area -- 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. -- and about the ages of other properties in the area. The house to the west was built in 1950, the historic Peak House to the east was built in 1711, and nearby Eliakim Morse House was built in 1750. 

Potts also asked if the 10 acre parcel of land to the north was still for sale, and it is. 

Linda White of 11 Pound Street was concerned about drivers turning left from Pound Street onto Main Street. The intersection can be difficult to maneuver and she suggested a 'no left turn' off Pound Street.

"I am really concerned about the safety on that roadway," White said. 

Alex Stevens of 86 Philip Street said the traffic on Route 109 (Main Street) "already goes faster that the conditions permit" and he suggested decreasing the speed limit. 

Adams, the traffic engineer, said the current traffic travels at 43 miles per hour and if a new traffic study was done, the speed limit in that area would likely be increased to 45 miles per hour because a speed limit is essentially based on the average speed traveled today. 

Police Chief Meaney said the Board of Selectmen have the authority to decrease speed limits in town. 

Doug Whitla, who lives in an historic house at 419 Main Street, spoke in favor of the project and said, "The [opposed] neighborhood group does not speak for all the neighbors."

He said comments that the restored tavern would be a nuisance are "ridiculous" and that he is not concerned it will negatively impact the value of his house. He said he chose to live on Main Street, and all that brings with it.

"We could have moved to a cul-de-sac for peace and quiet. Those of us who moved to Main Street made this conscious choice," Whitla said, adding that he is impressed with the proposed plans. 

Garland Kincaid of 133 South Street and a teacher at Medfield High School, spoke in favor of the project. 

"As a high school history teacher, I would be heartbroken to see a building of early American history be torn down," she said. "To lose that, and to lose the ability for generations to see it when it could be preserved  right next to the Peak House, is just hard to stomach." 

Kincaid said she has taken her high school students to the Dwight Derby House and seen the reaction the students have to a similar historic structure. 

"Seeing their reaction to seeing a house that is that old and preserved...I just think it would be a great loss," she said. 

Jack Pettinger of 9 Hickory Drive said he had just returned to Medfield from the western part of the country and "America is starting to look the same, every single town you drive through."

He said, "This is such a precious resource at our disposal," and the restoration of the Clark Tavern gives Medfield "a sense of place" and one of the things that makes the town unique. 

Jim Munz of 108 South Street said the tavern, in its current state is "an eyesore" that he wishes would be restored. 

"I look at the property, I look at the value, and I see a rare opportunity," he said. "People are willing to invest their own money into something that could be an icon to everybody who comes through Medfield every day on [route] 109."

Neil Connor of 5 Philip Street recalled the "big, elegant" historic [Curtis] house that once stood at 50 North Street that was ultimately torn down and an office building constructed in its place.

"That was a gorgeous property...and I can't show my kids," he said, adding "I understand the essence of what the town was trying to do when they did the bylaw change." 

Richard DeSorgher said the historic value of the Clark Tavern "is on par with the Peak House and the Dwight Derby House." 

"I think the Linnerts have worked very hard to address very legitimate concerns that the neighbors have," he said, adding that he hopes the town is wise in its decision-making so that future generations don't look back and talk about the loss of the Clark Tavern. 

The hearing was continued to Feb. 26, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. 

To have your opinion heard on the project, contact Town Planner Sarah Raposa at sraposa@medfield.net or 508-906-3027. 
dontlinkmyposts January 21, 2014 at 09:06 AM
The owner wants to invest their own money to restore and restablish a business that has been in place for over 200 years. It meets all current zoning guidelines. Why is this a problem?
Colleen M. Sullivan January 21, 2014 at 10:24 AM
Having attended the ZBA meeting, I found it very interesting to hear the concerns of both sides, but I am in favor of seeing this project go forward. I believe the concerns of the abutters can be addressed and satisfied with proper communication. This project would be a huge asset to the Town of Medfield and would provide a beautifully restored Clark Tavern and fill a void in the town. Having a B&B in Medfield, in addition to the restaurant/tavern would be a plus.
CMP January 26, 2014 at 01:19 PM
I'm especially nervous that if the tavern project doesn't go through, the combination of that property, with the 10 acres and adjacent residence both on the market, would be very attractive to a developer. In that scenario, the people who'd benefit the most are the ones selling the properties, and the entire community would then lose.

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