Hadley planners resume review of Esselon Cafe parking, redevelopment plans

  • Esselon Cafe on Route 9 in Hadley GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/26/2021 12:25:42 PM

HADLEY — Customers at Esselon Cafe parking their vehicles along the West Street green remain a concern for the town’s Planning Board, whose members are demanding that it stop before any additional approvals are given to its owner for redeveloping an abutting property.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said he is troubled by diners continuing to use West Street for parking during the resumption of a recent site plan hearing for adding parking spaces and incorporating the former Hadley Auto Service at 97 Russell St. into Esselon’s property.

“The applicant has done nothing to keep the parking off of the Town Common, against site-plan approval of several years ago. Period,” Maksimoski said.

The hearing, delayed more than 18 months, is resuming after the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which oversees Route 9, recently authorized a curb cut for the former garage.

Mark Krause, who owns Esselon, said his plans are to make more parking available in a safe overflow space and to beautify the property. In the past, he has described the project as converting the old garage into a multi-tenant building.

But Maksimoski said the overflow lot could have been used since early 2020 without getting the curb cut.

Since its opening in June 2006, Esselon has had insufficient space in its main lot, causing vehicles to be parked on the adjacent street, even though businesses in Hadley are mandated to provide enough parking for their customers. Unlike some cities and towns, Hadley offers no municipal parking spaces.

In November 2019, the Select Board, after receiving reports of safety concerns for a school bus that picks up and drops off a student on West Street, authorized the installation of new signs to remind people not to park on portions of the road.

Krause explained that in addition to speaking with the Select Board about the matter, he has talked to police about the enforcement of parking regulations.

Still, Maksimoski said these efforts appeared to be an attempt to skirt the Planning Board rules and that it is up to Krause to tell customers where they can’t park, and advising them their vehicles will be towed if they don’t abide.

“They just don’t cooperate with the town,” Maksimoski said of Esselon’s management.

Thomas Reidy, an attorney with Bacon Wilson, PC of Amherst, said the criticism toward his client is unfair and that planners should remember that a pandemic is still happening and they should let bygones be bygones.

“Let’s put that in the past and focus on the future,” Reidy said.

Board member Joseph Zgrodnik, though, said promises were made to keep vehicles from the Town Common.

“You’re not coming up with a solution, you’re coming up with excuses,” Zgrodnik said.

The plans that will be subject to the hearing show 49 spaces at Esselon Cafe and the former Hadley Auto Service, 27 that are new, according to plans drawn up by Jeff Squire, a consultant with the Berkshire Design Group.

The hearing will continue Aug. 17 at 6:45 p.m. so abutters can be notified and offer comments.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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