The Nantucket Planning Board is nearing the conclusion of its review of the proposed "new downtown" development on Sparks Avenue, and a decision by the regulatory body on the controversial project could come as soon as Monday night's meeting.
With that decision imminent, Planning and Land Use Services staff have issued a series of proposed conditions for the elected members of the Planning Board to consider if they proceed with approval of the mixed-use development. Those conditions include a ban on short-term rentals within the proposed apartment units and a requirement that the developers reach an agreement "on affordability and/or year-round restrictions" on those units before the issuance of a building permit.
The proposed 17,700 square-foot building would include four floors (with three above grade) featuring dedicated spaces for a 50-seat restaurant, along with office space, an eight-lane bowling alley that would include a second restaurant and an arcade, and 32 apartment units totaling approximately 60 bedrooms. The development would be constructed on the 1.6-acre site across from the mid-island Stop & Shop.
The proposal has not yet been approved by either the Planning Board or the Historic District Commission (HDC). While the HDC has just recently gotten its first look at updated plans for the development, the Planning Board has been reviewing the project for more than a year.
Developers Christopher Fiumara and Daniel Najarian are seeking permits to construct a mixed-use building that would stretch from 18 to 26 Sparks Avenue, including the area where The Downyflake restaurant is currently located up to the Cumberland Farms property. It's not yet clear if the Downyflake would continue to operate in that space once the development is completed, although that is the hope of the developers.
While the developers had hoped to reach an agreement with the neighboring property owner that leases a building to Cumberland Farms on a shared driveway, that deal never materialized.
The most recent plans submitted to the Planning Board show a "one-way, enter-only
operation that is physically separated from the adjacent Cumberland Farms exit-only
driveway; no cross-connections are proposed between these two commercial properties."
The Planning and Land Use Services staff recommendations on possible conditions for approval of the project are as follows:
- That the Applicant grants the town an easement along the entrance abutting 30 Sparks Ave. The Board must request action on the easement within seven years of the issuance of the final Certificate of Occupancy (or a date otherwise mutually agreeable between the Board and the Applicant);
- That Applicant agrees to construct the sidewalk improvements along Sparks Avenue at their own expense;
- That Applicant agrees to contribute $10,000 to the Town of Nantucket to be used for area bike and pedestrian improvements;
- That a pre-construction meeting take place with relevant town staff prior to the
commencement of construction;
- Short-term rentals in any of the apartment units shall be strictly prohibited;
- That the Applicant and the Affordable Housing Trust on behalf of the Select Board, reach an agreement on affordability and/or year-round restrictions prior to the issuance of a building permit.
While the discussion of the project on social media has been fairly negative about the scale of the project and the potential impacts on traffic and congestion in the mid-island area, there have been relatively few formal comments to the Planning Board in the form of letters of public statements. Historic District Commission member Val Oliver is among those who have been raising concerns.
"It seems a very staggering number of units in one area and one building…all which need parking for tenants and guests which cannot be predicted," Oliver wrote in a letter to the Planning Board. "In conclusion, this area is used by everyone on the island, having the main grocery store and other useful amenities. I welcome the idea of introducing new businesses and things to do, however, not at the expense of the existing fabric of people and places. This project needs to be scaled down, I am sure there will still be profit in the end and existing mid-island residents will be amenable to the inevitable change of their home."