, Newburyport, MA

November 15, 2012

PI Grille entertainment on hold

Selectmen await more details before final vote

By Jennifer Solis Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURY — A proposal by a popular local restaurant to offer entertainment one evening a week has sparked renewed concerns from residents over parking and traffic issues on Plum Island.

The Board of Selectmen Tuesday night tabled a request by Mark Friery, owner of The Plum Island Grille, to offer on-site entertainment on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. for 12 weeks. The board wanted to hear directly from the owner, who was not present for the discussion, regarding what type of entertainment he was intending to offer and how the restaurant has handled entertainment it has presented in the past.

But nearby residents Lee Ann Eagan and Carol Doyle registered their opposition to the request, citing a lack of oversight by public safety officials in enforcing occupancy restrictions in the building as well as ongoing, unresolved parking issues in the area.

Eagan said occupancy checks are not being conducted at night when the restaurant is busiest, a claim that fire Chief William Pearson, sitting in the back of the room, appeared to confirm. The building has a maximum capacity of 95 people.

Doyle said she was concerned that the addition of entertainment would bring in more customers, adding to existing parking headaches in the neighborhood. She added a proposed sign to advertise the weekly entertainment would be a traffic hazard.

In response to Selectman Geoff Walker’s question about what the restaurant could do to satisfy their concerns, Doyle said, “Provide its own parking and having no parking on the street.”

While the board agreed it was inclined to approve the request once it received a few more specifics, Selectman Dave Mountain suggested safety officials and the building inspector conduct spot checks to make sure occupancy standards are being met.

In other business:

Town Administrator Tracy Blais announced that because of the federal government’s prescription drug program, MedEx Plan costs are decreasing 6 percent.

The town has learned it was not awarded two grants it had sought to address traffic issues in Byfield Center and beautify the gateway to Plum Island.

A jetty project is kicking off soon. Truck routes for work during the duration of the project are available for review in the selectmen’s office.

Blais will be rearranging personnel at Town Hall to help with backlogs in certain departments.

The board appointed Dick Passeri to the Board of Library Trustees to serve out the term of Lois Smith, who passed away last month. Selectmen also discussed a request by the Fire Department to fill a full-time post following the resignation of John Kelley.

A tax classification hearing with the Board of Assessors was postponed until Nov. 27 until more information from the state Department of Revenue is available.

A decision on a half-marathon in town next May was postponed until selectmen get an OK from the police chief.

Selectmen authorized declaring as surplus a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria from the Police Department that has 131,679 miles. Bids on the vehicle will be received until Nov. 27.

A request from the Triton Regional School District to extend the deadline for submission of its final budget to the towns from March 15 to April 1 was approved. But discussion on a proposal to revise the Triton Regional Agreement was tabled until next meeting.

Six one-day liquor licenses were granted to the Protection Fire Company #2 for November and December.

Mountain updated the board on the effort to enhance the town’s cable access broadcasting capabilities and on a workshop on sea level rise and climate change he and Walker attended.

Selectmen Chairman Joe Story and board member Chuck Bear were not present for the meeting.