New, expanded porch approved for Inn on Shipyard Park
On Thursday night, the Zoning Board voted unanimously to grant a special permit for a new, expanded porch at the Inn on Shipyard Park.
The proposal from owners Nils Johnson and Andrea Perry is for the reconstruction and widening of the porch by 3 feet.
“The idea of the expansion of the building is to give a little more flow, not only for customers but for staff,” said Johnson. He said the whole front of the building will get a face lift.
The new porch, including steps on the front, will put the structure 1 foot, 2 inches from the sidewalk. Johnson’s attorney, Marc Deshaies, said many structures on Water Street already have a similar proximity to the sidewalk and that the inn would not cause “substantial detriment” to the neighborhood.
The historic building is already “nonconforming” under current bylaws due to its age.
Some neighbors, however, asserted that the porch extension is not legal and would require a variance under state statute rather than simply a special permit from the Zoning Board.
Attorney Thomas Crotty, representing abutters George and Maureen Butler, said the setback requirement is 25 feet.
“You can see a lot of the properties are close to the sidewalk, but they’re not as close as this. I don’t think you have the authority to allow this,” Crotty told the board.
Building Commissioner Andy Bobola disagreed, saying the proposed structure fits in with the special permit requirements in the town’s zoning bylaws.
“These are our bylaws that have been approved by the [Attorney General’s] office. We’ve never had it challenged in the thirty-one years I’ve been involved,” he said.
But Crotty said the plans are illegal to begin with.
“You’re trying to interpret it in a way that is contrary to the statute,” Crotty said of the bylaw. “You have to stay with the legislation.”
Some residents, including the Butlers, were also concerned that added capacity on the porch would result in additional noise.
“We understand these folks are ambitious and want to do a good job. If it’s going to be open until ten o'clock at night, we didn’t want additional noise,” said one neighbor.
Johnson said the structure would permit some four-person tables, while the current space can only accommodate two-person tables. He was interested in adding 10 chairs, though Bobola said six would be the maximum given the additional footage. The overall capacity for the restaurant and inn would not change.
Neighbor Vince Cragin has lived across the street from the restaurant since 1999. He offered his support for the plan.
“I’m very excited for this project. It’s going to make the inn look beautiful,” he said. “I find that they respect the neighborhood. They’ve been good to the Village.”
Before voting, the board discussed whether or not town counsel should be consulted.
“I think it’s probably going to wind up being appealed, if it’s approved,” said board member Mary Anne Brogan, who was in favor of speaking with counsel.
Chair Susan Akin disagreed as did member Ken Pacheco, who said it is one of the town’s most known locations.
“This thing is over three hundred years old. It’s vital to the community,” he said.
Pacheco added, “I would guarantee you in the last year ninety percent of the noise complains have been from the Butlers.”
The board ultimately decided to make its decision based on Bobola’s reading of the bylaw. They unanimously voted to approve the special permit.