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Owners Look To Expand South Hingham Gas Station

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, Posted: June 30, 2020 

The owners of Hingham Gas, a Gulf Oil station located at 19 Whiting Street in South Hingham, have purchased the single family home next door and are looking to expand their business. The small Cape, which sits on a 1.26-acre lot at 27 Whiting Street between the gas station and Hingham Jewelers and behind Scarlet Oak Tavern, is located in a district that is zoned for commercial use. The gas station was constructed in the 1950s and is on a 0.41-acre lot.

Merhej and Sons are seeking approval to demolish both the house and the existing gas station kiosk in order to construct a one-story, 2570-square-foot building for retail space which would contain bathrooms, office space, a service area and an area for a cashier – all of the things that are typical to support a gas station service station. However, a building cannot straddle two lots, so the lots would need to be combined. The owners would also like to use a proposed 1000-square-foot underground garage for storage which is not an allowed use.

Attorney Jeff Tocchio presented the proposal to the Planning Board on Monday, June 15th on behalf of the owners. In addition to asking for a reduction in curb openings, also called “curb cuts,” which would require a Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) permit, the owners would like to expand the number of parking spaces to 16 in order to support the retail use of the building. Tocchio pointed out that the plan calls for only 4.8% of lot coverage where 25% is allowed.

However, the project is more complicated than it would appear at first glance. The site falls within the Accord Pond Watershed and the Hingham Aquifer Protection District, so the increase in impervious surface means new measures would need to be taken to clean and recharge the water on the site. An intermittent stream on the property and wetlands that are located behind the house at 27 Whiting Street complicate the plan. These wetlands service the town’s water supply. “The existing building, shed and part of the parking encroach within the 50-foot buffer,” said Don Rose, a civil engineer from CHA Consultants on behalf of the owners. “We have tried to design the improvements to remain as far out of the 50-foot buffer as possible.”

Stormwater rate control would require a new approach to stormwater issues that exist on the site because the current method is not approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and a better and more detailed erosion control plan would be necessary too. While expansion of gas use is not being requested, there is a higher potential for contamination on the property due to the fact that the business is a gas station. There is already a history of leakage there. “Because it’s a land use with higher potential pollutant load and in a critical area,” explained John Chessia, of Chessia Consulting Group, “treatment is more important.”

Traffic is anticipated to increase due to the change in use from residential to retail. Whiting Street already carries an average of more than 22,000 vehicles per day. It’s expected that around 25 additional vehicles would be added to the road during peak hours. Chief Olsson pointed out that a lot of traffic concerns exist at Queen Anne’s Corner. “This is an opportunity to address some of the speeding issues in that area,” he said. “It might be time to reduce to a 30-mile-per-hour zone.” A failed septic system, internal traffic circulation issues and the lack of a lighting plan add to the list of complexities for this project.

The Planning Board moved to continue the discussion until July 27th.. The Conservation Commission heard the proposal on May 18th and will review it again at their meeting on July 13th. However, other constraints may be added along the way. “The wild card is the Board of Health,” said Chessia, “because they have their own supplemental regulations.”

Planning Board members:

William C. Ramsey, Chairman

Gary Tondorf-Dick, Clerk

Gordon M. Carr

Judith Sneath

Kevin M. Ellis

Kristen Arute can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.