June 19, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
In response to neighborhood concerns, a proposal to build a mixed-use development on an acre of land at 11 Bank Avenue and 103 and 105 North Street has been scaled back. The review of the latest proposal continues.
Last night's joint ZBA and Planning Board meeting was continued until July 15, when the PB expects to vote on whether to approve the project. The ZBA will also hold another hearing(s). Check the town website for the date and time.
"We've arrived where we are today," local Developer John Barry said, by taking into consideration neighbors' concerns and acting to resolve them.
While the original plan included 2,000-square-feet of retail on the first floor and 20, one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors, the new plan depicts 1,750-square-feet of retail and eight, one-bedroom dwelling units on a reconfigured lot. The building height was lowered and the internal circulation pattern improved. One-third of the 1-1/2-acre site will be left undeveloped, and there will be plantings to screen the development from neighbors as well as a small terrace.
Downtown merchants have requested no construction vehicles on North Street during the build-out process if the plan is approved.
The nine-unit apartment building at 103 and 105 North Street in front of the proposed development will remain. The Renaissance Leather Shop, a shed, and a building that contains one apartment will be razed to make more room for the development.
There will be 29 parking spaces, some of them inside the proposed new building. The exit and entrance will be off North Street, with a big yellow "Watch for Pedestrians" sign posted at the exit.
North Street resident and Planning Board Member Judy Sneath was among several residents in attendance. She recused herself as a board member because she lives in close proximity to the site. "I'm still concerned about the ground-floor commercial use," she said, to which ZBA Chair Robyn Maguire responded, "We'll address that issue at our next meeting."
Police Chief Glenn Olsson weighed into the discussion. "Downtown Hingham is a condensed area with parking and speeding issues," he said. "I think eventually the town might consider creating a business zone with lower speed limits. I've been talking about downtown parking issues for the 38 years I've been with the Hingham Police Department."
He would like to sit down with the developer to further discuss ways to enhance safety because of one of the driveway's close proximity to the one-way portion of busy South Street. He said Barry and his team have been cooperative.
Traffic Engineer Jeffrey Dirk noted that there will be "no more than 20 peak-hour trips," which he expects will have a minimal impact on the traffic in the area. "This is not a high-crash location," he said.