SHIRLEY — Thanks to a recently issued permit from the Planning Board, the gas station and convenience store proposed for a site in the heart of the village business district has cleared the final hurdle and if all goes according to plan, the long-postponed project may finally launch.
There hasn’t been a gas station in town since a small Citgo station on the same Front Street site closed several years ago. It was later torn down and the empty lot became an eyesore, as weeds grew and litter blew in. Then came a plan to build a new, modern facility on the site, with a convenience store.
First proposed by the property owner, Prit Patel, in December, 2018, with an envisioned completion date in late spring or early summer, 2020, the project was postponed, in part, due to statewide COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and has progressed at a snail’s pace ever since.
Patel, who also owns other area properties, including a package store in Ayer, the coin operated laundromat next door to the gas station site and Net Variety Store, across the street, previously told a reporter that despite delays, he was still committed to the project.
“It’s all positive,” he said at the time.
Asked about the existing store, Patel said it would close when the new one opened and that he hoped the existing liquor license could be transferred. He planned to lease the other building, he said.
Last year, with the gas station in limbo, Patel put the gas station property up for sale. By then, the permit issued by the Planning Board in 2018, based on its previous site plan review, had expired.
Patel filed another application, which the board approved after a final public hearing last month.
Board member Barbara Yocum asked Patel if he still planned to sell the property and whether he’d see the gas station project through, given the extent of the work he’s put into it so far. His answer was yes, to both questions. He would finish what he’d started, he said, and he had at least two buyers lined up.
The protracted permit process is over now, but at one point, the project as proposed called for approvals from both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The permit the Planning Board issued, after much attention to detail and lengthy discussion, comes with a long list of conditions attached, all of which the proponents — Patel, his attorney, Tom Gibbons, and the project engineer, Hooshmand Afshar, of Taj Engineering — agreed to at the hearing.
As for the ZBA, which after several hearings rejected two variances Patel had applied for, that piece is now a moot point, since Patel withdrew both requests, opting to meet zoning requirements instead.
For example, rather than overstep the solid pavement limit allowed for the lot size, per zoning for the district, the new plan replaces blacktop areas with pervious pavers, negating the need for a variance.
With zoning issues settled, the Planning Board’s OK was the last green light needed to move forward.
But it could be more like a yellow light right now, given the long list of conditions attached to the permit, including waivers carried over from the original permit and a contingency that calls for one last review of the adjusted plan.
The waivers — concessions the Planning Board granted, with caveats — included scratching a requirement to install bicycle racks on the property and “relief” from certain other requirements related to pedestrian facilities; improvements, renovations and expansion of the old station’s footprint and changes in the calculation of permeable space, while still meeting storm water drainage requirements.
In addition, individual plans that meet specified requirements must be submitted to Public Safety officials, emergency responders and the Department of Public Works, prior to issuance of an occupancy permit.
Summarized, these plans include:
• Spill prevention/control
• Long-term pollution prevention
• Operations and maintenance
• Erosion control during construction
• Maintenance of pervious pavers and measures to keep the surface free from hazards, per Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
• Install six-foot chain link fence along rear property line, which abuts railroad tracks.
• No vehicle access to paver surfaces
• Sign size reduced on building
• Free-standing sign light fixtures must be red and not flashing, among other restrictions.
• Store and gas station hours set: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
• Canopy and store roof shingles: light gray with dark panels beneath.
• Canopy trim and ceiling color: white
• Canopy pillars will be a “neutral color.”
The board agreed that once the adjustments were made to the project plan, as discussed, it would be submitted to the chairman for final review.