NEWBURY — The town's review of a restaurant proposed on Plum Island will continue later this month following a Planning Board hearing where the applicant updated his plans and residents aired their opinions.
Project manager Vincent Godin of The Cottages Commercial LLC filed a site plan review application in January for a restaurant with 164 combined indoor and outdoor seats; a 400-square-foot moveable kitchen; 54 on-site parking spaces, as well as bike racks on Old Point Road.
The parcel now houses the old Angie’s Service Station and a single-family home. Godin’s plans call for demolishing the two structures at 2 Old Point Road, but keeping a 1,600-square-foot, two-bay garage that would be renovated into the restaurant.
The eatery, named Plum Island Sunset Club, would offer interior table and bar seating for up to 26 patrons and outdoor dining for about 138 people.
Steve Sawyer of Design Consultants Inc. spoke with board members about a recent meeting his team had with the state Department of Environmental Protection at which it was agreed to alter the makeup of the base for handicapped parking spaces. The DEP felt using gravel with compacted stone dust would make the spots more accessible and bring them into fuller compliance, Sawyer said.
The DEP proposed switching the material used near the outdoor seating area from permeable pavers to wood surface. Changes were also made to mitigate stormwater drainage issues, and on the advice of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, Godin has reversed the traffic pattern onto and off the lot.
The restaurant would be accessed via a one-way entrance from Old Point Road and patrons would leave via a one-way exit onto Plum Island Boulevard. No beach or commercial parking would be permitted.
A gravel driveway that leads to 11-14 McLeod Ave. would be maintained and expanded, and paved pedestrian zones would line the border of the site where there are no sidewalks.
The updated plan sets hours of operation from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days per week; off-season hours, 4 to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Godin, who hopes to open the eatery this summer, has said it would not be open in the morning, but weekend brunch is a possibility in the future.
As for potential traffic, opening the restaurant would generate 69 trips during the weekday peak travel hour in the afternoon and 86 trips during the peak hour on Saturday mornings, according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Trip Generation Manual.
Of these trips, 50% would involve motor vehicles while the other 50% would be classified as nonvehicular modes such as people biking or walking.
The institute concluded that the number of trips to the site represents “less than a 3% increase in traffic along Plum Island Boulevard ... As such, DCI believes that this site will have minimal impact on traffic after redevelopment,” Sawyer said.
But in correspondence submitted to the board, resident Susan Mitchell objected to the decision to expand hours of operation, claiming it would increase noise and traffic.
“Never mind what brunch service will do to currently struggling restaurant owners who have hung in there during COVID,” she said.
Steve Mangion questioned the wisdom of serving alcohol outside and said loud noise from the outdoor restaurant would disturb “the still of the night” on the island. “I can’t support being open until 11 with outdoor dining,” he said.
Any plans for live music or other forms of entertainment would require Select Board approval, noted town planner Martha Taylor.
The Select Board must review the application for a license to serve alcohol before it goes to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for approval, Planning Board member Larry Murphy said.
Basin Street resident Lynn Petty praised the plan and its timely use of outdoor space.
“Do we all want to continue to look at this gas station on the corner or do we want to bring a well-thought-out plan to this island?” she asked.
Another resident saw the proposal as “something new and positive for our islands and visitors.” A third woman asked “everyone to open their minds up to a common sense approach” that would make the island beautiful and create a friendly spot for families to eat.
Resident Paul Duffy predicted that Plum Island Sunset Club would be "desirable" and a "boon to the island.”
The public hearing continues April 21 at 7:15 p.m.