It will be more than a month before a new restaurant and two retail shops in Braintree-Weymouth Landing come up for approval after the Planning Board moved its decision on the project to August, putting in jeopardy the owner's ability to complete a key portion of construction in time.
Harry Sarras, co-owner of The Landing Pub and Ultimate Pizza, and architect Brian Donahue appeared again before the board on Tuesday night expecting their project to move forward and construction to start soon on a building that will take the place of those two establishments and house a 95-seat restaurant and the small retail stores.
But board members put off their vote until Aug. 21 to give the planning department time to draft conditions for a site plan review of the construction and a special permit for the limited parking attached to the building. Members also said they wanted additional time to go over information from Donahue that they said was provided only last Friday.
"This is a really good project and we want to see it done," Darryl Mikami said. "And done right."
Originally, the site at 2-10 Commercial Street was home to the Bates Opera House, built in the mid-1800s, according to Wicked Local. The current building was constructed in the 1930s and sits on the border of Braintree and Weymouth.
Officials from both towns have been working for years to revitalize the Landing, and recently completed overhauls of their respective zoning laws to encourage a village-type business area and collaborated on a $2.4 million beautification project using state grant money.
In addition to review by the Planning Board, Sarras has also been before the Conservation Commission, which he said has given a deadline of January to complete a portion of construction that may affect the culvert that passes through the Landing. Planning and Community Development Director Christine Stickney said that an upstream gate is opened from January through May to allow fish to breed.
Sarras said he is concerned that pushing back the start date of the project may not allow construction to get far enough along by January. "They threw us a real curveball," Donahue said. The total construction period will likely take six to eight months.
Originally, review of the project was continued from June to the July 10 meeting because board members and Stickney said the paperwork they had received from Donahue was incomplete. The plans for the building, for instance, did not have a stamp by a certified surveyor or civil engineer. That problem was addressed before Tuesday's meeting and other necessary paperwork was also provided, but not in a timely way, board chair Robert Harnais said.
"We have a process – this is the way it's always worked," Harnais said. "Nobody here wants to delay your project."
But Sarras and Donahue were visibily frustrated by that process, and by the board's inability to schedule a meeting sooner than Aug. 21. "Our window of opportunity to get this project going is closing," Sarras said.
Aside from documentation, parking remains an unresolved issue, according to board member Joseph Reynolds.
The business would have four spots behind the building and two across the street. Reynolds suggested that Sarras work with Mayor Joseph Sullivan on setting up a sticker parking program so that employees can park for more than the allotted time in the public lot next to the commuter rail station. Sarras said he has already put in motion a plan to ensure his employees have public transit access and indicated he will try the sticker solution as well.