Archive for June 2020

Owners Look To Expand South Hingham Gas Station

The owners of Hingham Gas, a Gulf Oil station located at 19 Whiting Street in South Hingham, have purchased the single family home next door and are looking to expand their business. The small Cape, which sits on a 1.26-acre lot at 27 Whiting Street between the gas station and Hingham Jewelers and behind Scarlet Oak Tavern, is located in a district that is zoned for commercial use. The gas station was constructed in the 1950s and is on a 0.41-acre lot.

Merhej and Sons are seeking approval to demolish both the house and the existing gas station kiosk in order to construct a one-story, 2570-square-foot building for retail space which would contain bathrooms, office space, a service area and an area for a cashier – all of the things that are typical to support a gas station service station. However, a building cannot straddle two lots, so the lots would need to be combined. The owners would also like to use a proposed 1000-square-foot underground garage for storage which is not an allowed use.

Attorney Jeff Tocchio presented the proposal to the Planning Board on Monday, June 15th on behalf of the owners. In addition to asking for a reduction in curb openings, also called “curb cuts,” which would require a Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) permit, the owners would like to expand the number of parking spaces to 16 in order to support the retail use of the building. Tocchio pointed out that the plan calls for only 4.8% of lot coverage where 25% is allowed.

However, the project is more complicated than it would appear at first glance. The site falls within the Accord Pond Watershed and the Hingham Aquifer Protection District, so the increase in impervious surface means new measures would need to be taken to clean and recharge the water on the site. An intermittent stream on the property and wetlands that are located behind the house at 27 Whiting Street complicate the plan. These wetlands service the town’s water supply. “The existing building, shed and part of the parking encroach within the 50-foot buffer,” said Don Rose, a civil engineer from CHA Consultants on behalf of the owners. “We have tried to design the improvements to remain as far out of the 50-foot buffer as possible.”

Stormwater rate control would require a new approach to stormwater issues that exist on the site because the current method is not approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and a better and more detailed erosion control plan would be necessary too. While expansion of gas use is not being requested, there is a higher potential for contamination on the property due to the fact that the business is a gas station. There is already a history of leakage there. “Because it’s a land use with higher potential pollutant load and in a critical area,” explained John Chessia, of Chessia Consulting Group, “treatment is more important.”

Traffic is anticipated to increase due to the change in use from residential to retail. Whiting Street already carries an average of more than 22,000 vehicles per day. It’s expected that around 25 additional vehicles would be added to the road during peak hours. Chief Olsson pointed out that a lot of traffic concerns exist at Queen Anne’s Corner. “This is an opportunity to address some of the speeding issues in that area,” he said. “It might be time to reduce to a 30-mile-per-hour zone.” A failed septic system, internal traffic circulation issues and the lack of a lighting plan add to the list of complexities for this project.

The Planning Board moved to continue the discussion until July 27th.. The Conservation Commission heard the proposal on May 18th and will review it again at their meeting on July 13th. However, other constraints may be added along the way. “The wild card is the Board of Health,” said Chessia, “because they have their own supplemental regulations.”

Planning Board members:

William C. Ramsey, Chairman

Gary Tondorf-Dick, Clerk

Gordon M. Carr

Judith Sneath

Kevin M. Ellis

The Deadline to Apply for SBA Loan is Tomorrow: What You Need To Know

The Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Paycheck Protection Program is currently accepting applications from local businesses and non-profits until June 30th.  The loans can can be used for a variety of bills, like payroll and accounts payable, that cannot be paid due to the impact of COVID-19.

To keep payments affordable for small businesses and non-profits, SBA offers the loans with a 3.75 percent interest rate for businesses and 2.75% rate for non-profits as well as long repayment terms, up to a maximum of 30 years.  Plus, the first payment is deferred for one year.

These PPP loans have relatively favorable terms for borrowers, according to South Shore Bank.  And, in the event of bankruptcy, the loans can generally be discharged, they said.  However, they encourage borrowers to monitor rule changes implemented by the SBA before submitting a forgiveness application.

To meet the unprecedented need, the SBA has made numerous improvements to the application and loan closing process, including deploying new technology and automated tools,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.

In an effort to assist small businesses and non-profits, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has created a web page with resources to aid them in applying to this program.

The resource page includes:

  • An info sheet describing the program

  • Links to other resources including program information and loan applications in 19 languages

  • A list of technical assistance providers indicating they are able to help small businesses/nonprofits apply for the PPP

  • A list of financial institutions that are able to process PPP loans for non-customers

You can visit the page here: https://www.bostonfed.org/in-the-region/covid-19-resources/paycheck-protection-program.aspx

The Paycheck Protection Program, created by the CARES Act legislation enacted in March, updated the disaster loan program to provide emergency grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses.  The Small Business Administration, which administers the loans, has approved nearly $630 billion in combined funding for businesses since the crisis began.  Frequently Asked Questions for Lenders and Borrowers for the Paycheck Protection Program can visit https://www.sba.gov/document/support-faq-lenders-borrowers.

Masks To Benefit 4th Of July Parade In 2021

This year, they will be donating a portion of the sales of their 4th of July masks to Hingham’s 4th of July Parade Committee in order to support a “bigger and brighter celebration” in 2021. “My wife grew up in Hingham, and as a family we have been bringing our children to the 4th of July parade since they were infants,” said Abi. “Last year we finally made the decision to move to Hingham and become a part of the community here.”

After a question was raised by Parade Committee Chair, Jim Murphy, Hingham’s Veteran’s Services Agent Keith Jermyn confirmed that the masks adhere to the “Flag Code,” which designates appropriate and inappropriate uses for the American flag. The Code states that unless the item of clothing is made out of an actual flag, it is not illegal.

The first shipment of masks has been received, and orders are being taken online. The word “Hingham” has been activated as a coupon code which allows residents to get free shipping and enables the company to track sales that are going toward the parade fundraiser.

School Committee approves new private school for grades 6-12 in South Hingham

During their Monday night meeting, the School Committee unanimously approved the July 1st opening of a new school at 99 Derby Street, Suite 101 in South Hingham. Fusion Academy, which is a private school for grades 6-12, offers “personalized, accredited education” to middle school and high school students who struggle in traditional school settings and says that its “powerful relationships-based, one-to-one teaching changes the lives of our students and their families.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jamie LaBillois, whose office oversees the administrative procedures associated with the opening of private schools in Hingham said that after a year of “ongoing dialogue and communication,” an application with a request to operate was received on February 14th. The Community Outreach Subcommittee, which is comprised of Libby Lewiecki, Nes Correnti and Michelle Ayer, was charged with reviewing the school’s application and making a recommendation to the School Committee as a whole which has oversight of approval of private schools in Hingham. The Subcommittee met on May 20th then had at a site visit on June 3rd which is required by School Committee procedures. “Following the site visit and tour,” said Dr. LaBillois, “the Subcommittee were in unanimous agreement to recommend to the full Hingham School Committee the full approval of the operation of Fusion Academy.”

Subcommittee Chair Libby Lewiecki noted that they were very impressed with the school’s application and the site in particular.  “You can see how excited the administration is to provide this opportunity for students in the area,” she said, “and how their program will provide a completely personalized educational experience for every individual that goes to this school.” Libby went on to say, “We were jealous of their per pupil price tag and wondering just what Hingham Public Schools could do with that same amount,” before noting that the Subcommittee would be recommending approval of the opening of Fusion Academy.

After the vote, Chair Michelle Ayer thanked Dr. LaBillois for keeping everyone on task “in the world of social distancing.” She then invited Mike Van Dinther, who works with Fusion Academy at the corporate office, to speak. “I just wanted to say thank you very much for welcoming us,” said Mike, “and we look forward to serving your community.”

School Committee members

Michelle Ayer, Chair: mayer@hinghamschools.org
Carlos DaSilva, Vice Chair: cdasilva@hinghamschools.org
Kerry Ni, Secretary: kni@hinghamschools.org
Ed Schreier: eschreier@hinghamschools.org
Libby Lewiecki: llewiecki@hinghamschools.org
Liza O’Reilly: loreilly@hinghamschools.org
Nes Correnti: ncorrenti@hinghamschools.org

Scarlet Oak To Offer Drive-In Movies

On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen voted to allow Scarlet Oak Tavern to hold drive-in movies on Tuesday nights from June 19th through July 14th.  This will be offered in conjunction with the restaurant’s take-out dining service, and the potential exists for it to continue for the rest of the summer.  Meals will not be delivered to cars, but tables will be set up where people will be able to pick up their food orders.  Alcohol consumption of moviegoers will be prohibited.

“We just want one night during this crazy time to have a small amount of people come down to the restaurant safely and be able to watch a movie,” said General Manager Kenny Robichaud. “We are just doing this to make a memory to keep Scarlet Oak in the local community and to try to be a restaurant that really wants to be out there for the guests and for the local community.”

The entertainment license would allow the restaurant to sell tickets for up to 32 vehicles to park in the rear parking lot and view a movie.  That section of the parking lot can fit 74 cars; however, due to social distancing requirements, the cars would be spaced further apart.  On the phone were members of the Staff Reopening Team who, according to Town Administrator Tom Mayo, “have been working diligently to provide for a safe and appropriate reopening of our restaurants using all the tools made available to us from the State.”

Workplace standards for drive-in movie theaters were issued by the state on May 18th.  Following that, Scarlet Oak applied for a license.  Their request was circulated through a working group consisting of the health, building, fire and police departments.  “In general, the group supports the application and feels it can be conducted in a safe manner and provide a nice service to the community and help the restaurant get back into business,” said Senior Planner Emily Wentworth.

Both police and fire would be on location on the first night to assess the situation.  “We would be there to ensure that everything was safe and vehicle access would be unimpeded in the event of an emergency,” said Sergeant Jeff Kilroy of the Hingham Police Department. “We would also outline an evacuation plan.”  Lt. Chris DiNapoli, Fire Marshal for the Hingham Fire Department, assured the Board that he and Sgt. Kilroy and would make adjustments “on the fly” if needed.  “With everything that’s been going on the last few months, there’s going to be some trial and error,” he said, “but I think it can be done safely and be done right.”  Chief Olsson pointed out that, as with all entertainment licenses, they have “the right to reconsider if everything doesn’t work out.”  A detail officer will be on site to assist with exiting at the end of the movie.

A State environmental law prohibits the idling of cars beyond a certain amount of time.  Information to that effect would be handed out to attendees, and compliance would be reviewed during the first showing.  Abutters had not been notified; however, Kenny pointed out that surrounding businesses are closed at that time of night.  It was also determined that no residential communities would be impacted by the light of the screen or by the audio which would come though the stereo systems inside guests’ cars.  Restroom facilities will be available inside the restaurant for movie-goers and clearly taped off for social distancing purposes.

Once the restaurant is able to reopen, parking lot capacity will be reevaluated.  A zoning formula requires one parking space for every three seats, and there was much discussion about how parking requirements would be impacted by the reopening phases and restaurant seating availability during those phases and on the particular days and times the movies would be shown.  All aspects would be reevaluated after July 14th.

Tickets for upcoming movies can be reserved here.

Could beer and wine be coming to convenience stores in Hingham?

This fall voters may be asked to establish a new kind of liquor license called a “food store” license that would allow for the sale of beer and wine in any convenience store that sells food.  If it were to pass, it would need to be approved by town officials in order to be allowed in Hingham. The ballot question, which was proposed by Cumberland Farms, was held up in court until last week when the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County ruled that voters would be able to vote on it this November

With the court ruling behind them, proponents of the proposal would only be able to put the question before voters in November if they are able to collect a sufficient number of signatures by the June 17th deadline.  The new licenses could be issued as soon as December if the question is approved.

This new initiative would also also allow for an unlimited number of licenses for any one company to control after a phase-in period.  In 2007, the Massachusetts Package Stores Association (MPSA) successfully persuaded voters to limit liquor licenses for supermarket chains to a three-store maximum.  According to the Secretary of State’s Office, both sides spent over $12 million combined.  At the time, this was the most expensive ballot war in state history.

Planning Board Approves Function Space At The Range

On Monday night, The Planning Board approved a request that was made by the owners of The Range Bar & Grille to convert 1200 sq. ft. of existing storage space into a function room.  This is part of an overall development plan for the restaurant.

There were two conditions that went along with the approval.  The first pertained to flexing the maximum seating between the tavern space and the function area.  When an event is taking place within the 55-seat function space, an equal number of seats would need to be removed from the inside and outdoor tavern area in order to maintain the 136-seat maximum for the building.  That number was arrived at through calculations for Title V.  The seats would then need to be set aside and clearly marked as unusable.  The second was that the restaurant would be required to provide a list of dates and times of planned functions to the Building Department and the Board of Health on the Monday of each week any functions were scheduled.

Jeff Tocchio of Drohan, Tocchio and Morgan was on hand to represent the owners, Old Derby Nominee Trust.  He assured the Board that barriers would be set up to separate the tavern space from the function area, and he noted that parking had been deemed sufficient by a traffic expert.  In fact, it “exceeded peak calculations,” and there were “plenty of overflow spaces.”​

Since all the work will be conducted on the interior, the Board granted the request to waive a site plan review.  “We should be encouraging all of our businesses to think about developing new spaces,” said Kevin Ellis who approved of the renovations.

“I think it’s going to be a good use of space,” said Gordon Carr. “Hopefully it will provide (The Range) some flexibility in the next 6 months to use this as restaurant space, and it will be useful space for graduation parties next spring.”

“Or maybe later this year,” quipped Jeff.

Planning Board members:

William C. Ramsey, Chairman

Gary Tondorf-Dick, Clerk

Gordon M. Carr

Judith Sneath

Kevin M. Ellis

The Planning Board can be reached at PlanningBoard@hingham-ma.gov.

The Range Bar & Grille [Hingham Current News File Photos / Kristen Arute]