Blue Flag Again Scales Back Plans For The Woodbox As Neighbors Renew Concerns
Jason Graziadei •
With its neighbors united over concerns about the pending reopening of the historic Woodbox inn on Fair Street, Blue Flag Partners has once again scaled back its plans for the restaurant portion of the property.
According to a new management plan submitted to the Planning Board, the 45-seat restaurant would only be open to guests of the hotel, and will not be open to the public. The hours would be restricted to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“The limitation of the restaurant results in a significant decrease in employees as well as in deliveries and other services to be provided onsite," said attorney Sarah Alger, who represents Blue Flag, in a letter to the Planning Board.
The change marked another concession to the concerns of its neighbors, and follows Blue Flag's previous decision to drop the original plan for outdoor dining and music, as well as an indoor bar, in light of the pushback it had received.
Blue Flag Partners, the real estate development and investment firm led by Terry Sanford, Brad Guidi and Jason Brown, submitted management plans for the properties at 27 and 29 Fair Street to the Planning Board that will be considered during a public hearing on Monday as part of its special permit application.
Blue Flag's previous plan had proposed for the restaurant to be open daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the general public.
"In response to the neighbor's concerns about potential noise from people coming to the Woodbox for dinner, we have proposed to perform a historic preservation to the Woodbox but limit access to guests only in an effort to minimize neighborhood impact," Sanford said in a statement shared with the Current. "That said, the neighbors' have subsequently submitted a letter to the Planning Board presenting a case to make the entire property residential and remove the Woodbox Inn entirely. We were really disappointed to learn of this and hope that this is not the direction things go as we strongly believe that Nantucket's oldest inn should be preserved for future generations' use."
As Sanford noted, the Woodbox's neighbors have reviewed the revised plans, but are not satisfied with the proposed changes.
In a June 6 letter to the Planning Board, attorney Arthur Reade, who represents 70 residents of the Fair Street neighborhood, renewed the group’s opposition to Blue Flag’s application for a special permit.
“The proposed use will have a greater impact on this quiet residential neighborhood than any previous use,” Reade wrote to the board, raising concerns about the occupancy and use of 27 and 29 Fair Street, parking, and deliveries. “The developer is proposing to intensify the use of the two properties in a way that would burden Hillers Lane, increase trip generation to the neighborhood, and intensify the demand for parking in a neighborhood where the demand for parking significantly outweighs the supply.”
Reade noted that in Blue Flag's latest management plans submitted to the Planning Board, it is now referring to 29 Fair Street as a "hotel" that includes the restaurant, and 27 Fair Street as a guest house.
“In total, the developer is seeking to increase the number of lawfully permitted guest rooms across the two properties from presumably zero to 20 and the number of guest sin those rooms from 32 to 46, incorrectly using the immediate past use as the baseline," Reade wrote.
Blue Flag’s plans for the exterior of the historic structure show the front facade of 29 Fair Street and the side of the building along the narrow Hillers Lane would remain essentially the same, while a large addition off the rear of the building is being proposed.
The Woodbox is one of the oldest and most historic structures on Nantucket, dating back to 1709 – making it just slightly younger than the Oldest House. But the building had fallen into disrepair in recent years, and in 2019 it was condemned by the Health Department as unfit for human habitation. Preservation advocates are closely watching the permitting process for the proposed expansion and renovation.
In April 2021, Blue Flag Partners purchased the Woodbox property at 27-29 Fair Street as part of a $13.3 million deal to acquire the Summer House’s downtown lodging properties.