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Salem gives conditional nod to restaurant plan

SALEM — Despite some concerns about parking at the proposed site for Ralphie’s Cafe Italiano on South Broadway, the Conservation Commission is recommending the Planning Board approve a conditional use permit for the plan.

The conditional permit would allow some encroachment from the parking lot into a buffer zone for a bordering wetlands area, provided the restaurant meets several conditions.

Those conditions include a rain garden be built near the buffer zone, four parallel parking spots near the back of the restaurant consist of pervious pavers, and that a wetlands scientist make a report after the project is completed to make sure there is proper protection for the wetlands.

Parking for the project has been an issue at the Planning Board level, and Conservation Commission member Linda Harvey initially said she would have liked to see the four parallel spots behind the building removed in order to increase the non-paved area on the property.

The owners of the restaurant are seeking a variance from the Planning Board that would allow for 35 parking spaces on site, where 42 would be required under the town’s zoning laws.

To allow for additional parking during peak hours, the owners have reached agreement to use the parking lot at Ford’s Flowers on Belmont Street after 5 p.m., as needed.

Selectman Everett McBride noted the parking issue falls under the purview of the Planning Board and not the Conservation Commission.

However, Harvey stated that by reducing the amount of pavement on the property by requesting the four parking spaces be removed, it could increase the buffer zone for the wetlands.

“It is a conservation issue, because if we can account for parking at another location, we can have the buffer increased,” said Harvey.

McBride noted that while Harvey was seeking to have the number of parking spaces reduced, the Planning Board was looking for the owners to increase parking.

“It’s a chicken and egg situation,” said McBride. “I don’t think we should be talking about parking.”

Project engineer Kurt Meisner suggested using pervious pavers for the four parallel spaces, thereby keeping the same amount of parking spots onsite and reducing the amount of pavement.

The commission approved the revised plan and forwarded its ruling to the Planning Board as part of that board’s deliberations.

The planned 4,300-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant at 91 South Broadway would replace the current, smaller restaurant location at 386 South Broadway.

The building at 91 South Broadway, a former jewelry story, would be knocked down and replaced by a new building.

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