Harwich Center Development Gets High Marks

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Harwich Center , Economic development

Harwich News.

HARWICH — The latest plans for a proposed mixed-use development at the former Getty gas station lot in Harwich Center were well received by the planning board last week, although issues were raised regarding the buffer zone at the rear of the lot and how the new building will fit into the character of the historic village.

This is the second time around for project proponent Saumil Patel, who withdrew an earlier application after residents in and around the village protested the design as uncharacteristic of the architecture in the Harwich Center Historic District. The latest design, however, met with quick approval from the historic district and historical commission.

Attorney Howard C. Cahoon, representing Patel, who has a purchase and sales agreement on the property, told the planning board last Tuesday that the proponent has been working with the neighbors to develop a more suitable plan and has cut down the size of the building by 1,000 square feet. The structure was also moved up to the sidewalk in keeping with the location of the “Three Sisters,” the three Greek Revival buildings immediately west of the proposed convenience store.

“It’s a double house Greek Revival,” Cahoon said of the latest design approved by the historic district and historical commission.

The proposed building will contain a convenience store and deli; two apartments on the second floor will be for employees in the store so there will be a 24-hour presence. The plan is to do away with one of the curb cuts, which will provide two or three additional parking spaces on Main Street.

The Patels have operated the adjacent Main Street Market for a decade and have had a package store license for nearly five years. They will continue to operate the package store in the Main Street Market location, but have no plans to sell liquor at the convenience store.

Cahoon said a fence and screening along Parallel Street, to the rear of the lot, will be put up so “our impact will be as small as possible.”

Patel was seeking several waivers, and there will have to be an adjustment to the health board approval of 888 gallons of septage generated per day to 1,000 gallons to accommodate the deli, said Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh. Town Engineer Griffin Ryder identified some other necessary revisions to the plan.

“It’s a vast improvement to a lot that has sat vacant for many years,” Greenhalgh said. “Revitalized, it will be advantageous to the neighborhood.”

Planning Board member Joseph McParland spoke to the downward slope of the land to the rear of the property. Cahoon said some of the material associated with the project will be used as fill. Board member Craig Chadwick said there is a six- to seven-foot drop from the end of the proposed parking lot to the rear line. Cahoon said the project engineer has indicated there doesn’t seem to be a problem, but there might be a need for a small retaining wall. Greenhalgh said a wall will have to be shown on the plan.

Abutter Susan Sedor said there are few elements on the plan to show that green space is being preserved. Cahoon responded older trees will be left, but further information had yet to be received from the engineer.

Sedor also raised questions about the legal advertising of the project, stating the deli falls under the use of “fast food restaurants” in the zoning bylaw. Abutter Peter Antonellis said the application did not identify the deli, though it was mentioned in the historic district and historical commission meetings.

Greenhalgh said a use special permit might be needed for the deli in the future. Sedor said parking requirements for a take-out restaurant are greater and she’d like to see that shown on the plan. Cahoon said the parking shown is based on the square footage of the store and the apartments above. There should be 19 parking spaces and the plan shows 17. Cahoon agreed parking for the deli and the increase in the septic system design need to be addressed, along with showing a retaining wall on the plan.

“I think it’s a huge improvement for Harwich Center,” Brooks Free Library Director Ginny Hewitt said. “It replicates the Three Sisters very well. They listened to the community.”

Hewitt said the Brooks block, where the library is located, was built in 1880 as mixed-use complex with stores on the first floor and the library, a librarian apartment and offices on the second floor. “It’s nice to see the mixed use coming back,” Hewitt said.

“This has been a model on how to proceed, by the way,” added Planning Board Chairman James Joyce.

The planning board voted to continue the hearing to its June 25 meeting to allowed the necessary adjustments to be made to the plan.