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Board Denies License for Justine’s Restaurant

The Board of Selectmen raised issues with parking and traffic flow at the proposed site before unanimously denying the application.

One developer's idea for a on the Natick line may have been dealt a final deathblow at last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

The board unanimously denied Maryellen Behrend's application for a common victualler’s license to operate Justine’s restaurant due primarily to traffic and parking complications at the 978 Worcester St. (Route 9) site, despite multiple revisions to the parking plan over the course of several months.

Behrend, alongside her husband and property owner Dean and other site consultants, listened as the board and town consultants questioned the tight would-be parking arrangement at the site, largely due to a 36-unit residential building Dean Behrends said he would be constructing behind the proposed restaurant.

Kien Ho, Wellesley’s traffic engineer, said at least eight parking spaces at the site would have to be eliminated because of their inherent lack of functionality. Ho said at least two spaces would have to be eliminated near the front door of the site to enable vehicles to execute a three-point-turn so they would not have to spill back onto Route 9 if there were no spaces available.

“The concern we have is if all these parking spaces are full, if someone’s coming in, there’s no way for them to turn around,” he said.

Ho noted there would be limited access to a dumpster near the back of the site and that the proposed 42 parking spaces for 36 apartment units would have been “very tight.”

The board raised questions about a complicated shared parking arrangement between the residential building and the restaurant, which would have required constant parking management. Though the restaurant application did include on-site parking management for the restaurant, which would neighbor a Dunkin’ Donuts, Selectman Katherine Babson, who chaired the hearing because she served as the board’s chair when the application was first heard in March, said control over the arrangement was unclear.

“When we get down to the bottom of it the entity responsible is the owner of the property,” he said.

Jeffrey Dirk, Justine’s parking consultant, defended the seemingly tight parking by saying the functionality of the complex would depend on residents of the building being away during certain times.

“The reason the parking works is because it is shared parking, period,” he said. “If we locked up spaces throughout the entire day and said nobody could park here but residential…the parking doesn’t work.”

Dean Behrend, who has developed in Wellesley for at least 20 years, said he was confident in the site’s ability to handle the expected traffic and parking environment.

“I’ve witnessed a lot of traffic action down there and I’ve seen it work,” he said.

Babson said she questioned whether a restaurant at the site would serve the public good, as it would involve the greatest “density of use” of space anywhere in town. She then asked Executive Director of General Government Hans Larsen to read numerous on-site wetlands protection and construction violations dating back to 2008 totaling $12,650 in bylaw fines for which $8,825 was collected. Violations included construction of a restaurant before a permit had been issued and illegal placement of construction equipment.

Dean Behrend said he has paid all the fines, and that he is willing to comply with any conditions the board would impose.

“Our goal is to make sure everybody’s happy,” he said. “I didn’t invest all this time, energy and money in this site if I thought it wouldn’t work.”

This was the second time Dean Behrend became involved in an application for Justine’s restaurant. He filed an application, which he soon withdrew, in summer 2010. Maryellen Behrend filed the new application March 21, 2011. That application’s hearing had been continued twice before last night’s decision.

During the discussion portion of the hearing, Selectman Terri Tsagaris said the site was too dense for the parking and traffic to work, especially while construction of the residential building was to take place.

“To me it just doesn’t seem safe to have construction vehicles in the same area you’ll have employees park,” she said.

Babson reiterated the board’s view just before the vote.

“I just don’t see this as a workable plan,” she said.

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