Developer Drops Plan To Move Starbucks … For Now

A controversial proposal before the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals to relocate the Cushing Square Starbucks for nearly a year to a site near residential neighborhoods near the intersection of Belmont Street and Trapelo Road was suddenly scuttled this week by the applicant, developer Smith Legacy Partners.

But a source within Belmont Town Hall noted Smith Legacy’s action could lead to a new proposal being brought before the ZBA in October.

The developer’s withdrawing the requests scheduled to be heard at the ZBA’s Sept. 9 meeting agenda shuts the door on Smith Legacy’s proposal to decamp Starbucks to a pair of store fronts at 6-8 Trapelo Rd.

The move was deemed necessary as construction is reportedly scheduled to begin in October on Cushing Village, the 186,000 sq.-ft. multi-building residential/retail/parking complex being built by developer Chris Starr, Smith Legacy Partners’ lead partner.

The developer’s trial balloon, first floated in May, was met with considerable consternation from residents who live on nearby streets during a pair of ZBA meetings in May and June. Residents believed the store would have a negative impact on parking while generating greater trash and litter, creating safety issues and other nuisances.

ZBA members also expressed concerns on placing the busy cafe in a semi-residential area where a popular ice cream business would be just a few feet away.

While an initial assessment of Smith Legacy’s action would appear to close the door on the developer’s attempts at relocating the popular store, a Town Hall insider said the move can be seen as a strategic retreat.

If the ZBA denied Smith Legacy’s application at the Sept. 9 meeting, it would have been effectively barred from returning back with a similar proposal for the next 24 months, said the Town Hall source.

By withdrawing the application, Smith Legacy can submit a new plan to the ZBA at the board’s following meeting. Just how significantly different a new proposal will need to be – in terms of location, size and parking – will become clearer with a closer examination of the ZBA’s rules and regulations, said the source.

E-mails and calls have been sent to Smith Legacy and the town. Return to the Belmontonian for updates on Friday morning, Aug. 22.

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  1. Rod says

    Residents were concerned with a number of issues:

    1. The process – Smith Legacy Partners tried to slip this past the community. They did not notify the current leaseholders prior to submitting their proposal, they did not request that their issue be placed on the ZBA agenda until the day of the ZBA meeting and there was zero effort to consult the neighborhood making Smith Legacy Partners the poorest of corporate neighbors.

    2. The proposal submitted by Smith Legacy Partners was in gross violation of existing zoning laws and would have required a variance. Smith Legacy Partners tried to claim that Starbucks should not be treated as restaurant and would therefore not be required to meet the higher parking requirements as applied to restaurants in Belmont. Disingenuous and laughable at best.

    3. Although the proposal was being sold as “temporary”, once approved it would be very difficult to force Smith Legacy Partners to revert the property to a non-restaurant use.

    I hope Smith Legacy Partners learned a valuable lesson in all of this. There are plenty of vacant properties in the Cushing Square vicinity that could house Starbucks on a temporary basis albeit they are not owned by Smith Legacy Partners. Smith Legacy Partners may have to consider giving up a little revenue in the short term in order to realize their large objective.

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