Residents Caffeinated Over Possible Starbucks Relocation

When William Chin, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, asked late in the hearing on the proposed temporary relocation of Starbucks Coffee from its current home in Cushing Square up Trapelo Street to the corner of Belmont Street if anyone wanted to speak in favor of the application, a slight laugh rose from those filling the Board of Selectmen’s Room at Town Hall on Monday, May 19.

“Don’t everyone run [to defend it],” Chin said wryly, to the now chuckles of the approximately 40 residents who came  to show their overwhelming displeasure with the anticipated migration of the popular national coffee shop across from their residential neighborhood even if it is just for a single year.

After nearly 90 minutes in which few resident questions were concretely answered, the Board of Appeals voted to adjourn the meeting until Monday, June 16  so the applicant would be able to answer or explain neighbor’s concerns including parking, deliveries and adding another eatery to the area.

“This is only the start of the process,” said Chin. “It could also end here,” he added.

The move, as development consultant Gerry Pucillo told the board, is necessary so the Cushing Village development – the three building, 186,000 square foot parking, retail and residential complex in the heart of Cushing Square – can begin construction shortly after the relocation which should take place sometime around September.

The undertaking will be a friendly transaction as Cushing Village developer Chris Starr of Smith Legacy Partners controls both sites.

“We looked at several locations and he felt this was the one that suit Starbucks need,” said Pucillo after the meeting.

The transition, which will force two small businesses (a tailors and a jewelry store) to decamp from 6 – 8 Trapelo Rd., requires the issuance of two special permits by the Zoning Board, said Chin. One is simply structural; to straighten out the concave-shaped store front window.

The other will allow for a restaurant that doesn’t require food to be cooked on the premises to take over the space, placing 30 seats into the location, the same amount at the existing store.

Chin said the issuance of a special permit for a restaurant goes to the applicant or their representatives and does not apply to the actual space.

Yet according to the application for the special permit filed at the Office of Community Development, Smith Legacy declared once Starbucks returns to Cushing Village, the “site will then continue to be used for the new use granted under the Special permit.”

While Chin said the board does not have the ability to place a “sunset” clause on the restaurant special permit that would terminate the application, they can place in the permit a clause requiring any business at the location to submit to a periodical “review” to determine if it is a “good neighbor.”

“If not, we can close them down,” said Chin.

The argument against the relocation was capsulized by Oak Avenue homeowner Rickland Powell who said the inclusion of Starbucks into the area would “cause personal and irrefutable harm” to his neighborhood since the temporary Starbucks can only supply on-street parking for both employees and customers.

Pucillo said six employees are in the store during a typical shift.

Powell said there exists “parking issues” from commuters who park on area streets so they can use the popular MBTA bus route and coming from customers of Moozy’s, the popular ice cream which would be located two doors from the temporary Starbucks.

Under the town’s bylaw, “how many [parking] spaces are actually available and can multiple businesses claim the same space within their permit?” asked Powell.

Chin said in a Limited Business 3 zone – also known as a LB-3 – where the temporary space is located, a retail operator must have one space for every 250 square feet of business space. The proposed Starbucks is expected to take up just under 800 square feet.

“So clearly they are not near the zoning requirement,” said Chin, who noted that this situation is common around “strip” stores in Belmont.

Pucillo said parking will be discussed in the coming week when he meets with Community Development Director Glenn Clancy.

Yet Jeanne Mooney of Oak Avenue noted the relocation will occur at the same time as the reconstruction of the Belmont Street/Trapelo Road Corridor at the location. That construction in itself will take out parking along Trapelo and Belmont, making side streets the preferred long-term parking sites.

Other concerns included deliveries at the store, increased trash and the addition of a dumpster and the “rushed nature” of the move.

“The developer should have known well before this that … Starbucks needed to move to a different location,” said Steve Klionsky of Payson Road.

“Now we are being faced with the fall out of that as a fait accompli,” he said.

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