A plan to convert the long-time Park Cleaners store on Park Street into a convenience store that sells beer and wine would be the first such plan to come under new zoning laws enacted earlier this year.
The building is under agreement with the proponent, Anwar Hakam, and a plan has been presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for consideration at its Sept. 11th meeting.
City Manager Jay Ash said the plan is just what he was hoping to regulate when proposing and advocating for the new zoning ordinances governing convenience stores with alcohol licenses.
“Zoning has recommended changes that require License Board and now Zoning Board approval for these kinds of stores,” said Ash. “They will go through a process and that process has started for them. In general, the City has been concerned about the proliferation of package stores that open up as convenience stores. We are concerned about the land use impacts on opening a package store in a neighborhood. The Planning Board and City Council agreed and changed the zoning to require this additional review. It will be intended to determine the impacts of a convenience store with beer and wine on the neighborhood.”
Recently, especially as the retail sales have tightened in the down economy, corner stores have turned to securing beer and wine licenses to make up for lost income. In the natural progression of things, they eventually apply for more intense licenses such as all-alcohol packie licenses – resulting in corner stores that turn into full-scale liquor stores. That trend has been playing out in Chelsea over the past few years, and the only review by the City came with the Licensing Board – which could only concentrate on the license and no so much the community development impacts.
With the new regulations, the ZBA is able to take a broader look at the impact of opening a convenience store that wishes to sell alcohol.
Immediate concerns cited about the Park Cleaners plan includes the ROCA headquarters across the street, which services hundreds of young people trying to beat drug and alcohol problems. Also, the Early Learning Center is about two blocks away from the site.
On the other hand, there are already alcohol sales outlets in the general vicinity that exist peacefully within the neighborhood.
A public hearing on the matter will occur at the Sept. 11th ZBA meeting.