Kathleen Matos and Aaron Mitchell Patrick asked board members if they would consider instituting a different fee structure for “pop-up” businesses such as theirs. Matos and Patrick plan to operate a restaurant at The Nutmeg Inn. They said their plan calls for an opening date in mid-May, and to close at the end of October. Matos and Patrick were accompanied by Nutmeg Inn owner Paul Lockyear, who said the future of the summer venture depends on its first year. “The ‘pop-up’ is the test,” he said. “At the end, if it’s successful, the ‘pop-up’ goes away and we go for a full application.”
The Nutmeg Inn previously had sewer allocation for a 22-seat restaurant, but a previous owner let the allocation lapse back to the town, rather than pay annual fees. Board members noted that the loss of the sewer allocation came as a surprise to the new owner. The repurchase of the sewer allotment for their temporary business would cost about $6,600.
“We’re not suggesting a waiver, but a deferred fee,” Matos told board members.
Selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald said there was no provision in the sewer ordinance for a partial payment, temporary allotment or deferred fee, and he said the board would balk at setting a new precedent. But he offered a different option. “We have a revolving loan fund,” he said. “I think the limit is $20,000 for businesses.”
Matos thanked the board for the funding opportunity, but she also recommended they consider ways to accommodate short-term business in the future. “Trends in the industry are changing, and it’s going to be important in the future for business owners to be able to do this,” she said. “Right now (sewer allocation) is a lifetime fee. What if you sign a two-year lease downtown?”
Interim Town Manager Gretchen Havreluk said it would require a change to the sewer ordinance, and that the ordinance must be in compliance with state statutes.
“Other than a hot dog cart or two, we haven’t see a lot of ‘pop-up’ restaurants,” Fitzgerald said. “But we do want those businesses to be here.”
Noting that a legal search of land records had not alerted Lockyear to the fact that the inn’s allocation had lapsed, board member Ann Manwaring suggested that such actions be recorded in the land records in the future. “This is the second person I’ve heard of who purchased with the understanding they had a lot of gallonage available only to find they did not.”
In other business, Havreluk asked the board to authorize the expenditure of up to $45,000 in 1% local option tax money for the construction of the Reardon Bridge ramp. According to the town’s zoning permit, the ramp will be a permanent fixture constructed with a metal frame and railing with wood plank treads. Havreluk said the town would seek bids on the project.
Board members expressed surprise at the cost. “That strikes me as expensive,” said board member Vince Rice.
“I thought it would be more like $2,500,” said Fitzgerald.
Havreluk said the cost was connected to the materials used in the design. “There’s a lot of steel,” she said.
Former board member Tom Consolino expressed shock. “I’m surprised the handicap ramp will cost us 20% of what the entire bridge cost us,” he said. “It seems outrageous to spend that much. Maybe the plan for the ramp is not right.”
Original plans called for a pressure-treated wood structure. Subsequent design revisions made at the suggestion of development review board resulted in a steel structure intended to complement the steel construction of the bridge.
In financial matters, Havreluk reported that she and financial officer Christine Richter have determined the town will be over the budget at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. “I’m working with Christine on collecting more revenue, and I’ve met with department heads and asked them to tighten things up. But I don’t know how far off the numbers are yet.”
Havreluk said the town was on track to hold a tax sale before the end of June, but that many of the delinquent taxes had already been paid. “We still have about 23 properties on the list, with $100,000 in taxes to collect,” she said. “Originally we had 76; those others have all paid completely or made arrangements.”
Fitzgerald noted that the town has worked out an agreement with Hermitage attorney Bob Fisher for payment on properties that were due to go to tax sale before June.