Owner told to fix problems by March 18 or face possible closure

UPDATED March 15: A local restaurant has been operating without official authorization for more than a year, the Arlington Select Board learned recently at a meeting that also included approval of water monitoring near a long-proposed housing development and modification to a proposed Town Meeting article about private roads.

The future currently seems uncertain for Boston Pizza & Gyro, which according to its website serves a variety of Mediterranean fare, especially Italian and Greek favorites. This revelation came to light as Ismail Beyaztas, who owns the restaurant at 1323 Mass. Ave., attended the March 4 meeting seeking the approval of a common victualler license.

The board March 4 quickly discovered that the business had been operating without this license for quite some time; meanwhile, it remains open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Some town staffers have long been aware of problems at the site. For example, on March 14, Public Health Director Natasha Waden told YourArlington: "Boston Pizza & Gyro were required to attend an in-person meeting with the Health Department staff to discuss some ongoing and repeat food code violations. Some of the violations of concern include hot and cold holding temperatures as well as not having a knowledgeable person in charge, onsite during inspections, who can demonstrate that they are knowledgeable about of food safety practices and the food code."

Officials outline immediate next steps

“The establishment was placed for a hearing in February of 2023. The applicant did not appear for their hearing, and therefore the Common Victualler License was never technically granted,” said Town Manager Jim Feeney at the meeting; Town Counsel Michael Cunningham followed up to clarify that such a license is required.

The board unanimously agreed to continue this hearing to the evening of Monday, March 18, but much must be done before then if the business is to keep its doors open. It was stated that Beyaztas will need to attend an on-site inspection with the deputy fire chief as well as one with the director of inspectional services. Beyaztas also will need to correct any problems regarding codes or signage. And he will have to attend an administrative meeting scheduled by the town health department.

“In two weeks these problems need to be solved, and there needs to be criteria for the board to vote for the license. After that point, if the board does not issue that license, [Beyaztas] cannot operate the restaurant,” Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth said.

Although each board member agreed to revisit this request at the next meeting, member Len Diggins emphasized his concerns about the matter.

“I’m going to go along with the continued hearing, but I'm going to have a hard time voting yes in two weeks,” said Diggins. “I have a real bad feeling about this.” 

Town manager explains the history

In a mini-interview via email Tuesday, March 12, Feeney described what happened: 

"The Office of the Select Board made multiple attempts to contact the applicant in January and February of 2023 in advance of the license hearing scheduled for Feb. 27, 2023. When the applicant failed to appear at the hearing, additional attempts were made to contact the applicant both via telephone and in-person requesting follow-up.

"At this time, it was expected the applicant would follow-up as necessary, but this never occurred, and there was no established mechanism for how to proceed in this unique situation. Ultimately, the matter was lost to follow-up until license and permit renewals were underway.

"The town then began issuing written notices, which were hand-delivered on Jan. 18, Feb. 6 and Feb. 15. Again, the applicant disregarded the notices and did not take the requested actions until the end of February."

Asked whether any similar situation had occurred within recent memory, Feeney told YourArlington the following:

"Frankly, it is largely unprecedented for a local business seeking licensure to disregard numerous communications from the local licensing authority -- and has not occurred before." 

In reponse to a query about implementation of possible measures to prevent a recurrence, Feeney had this to say:

"Though our online permitting platform, we have programmed an inquiry specific to the service of food or alcohol to the process of seeking a Certificate of Occupancy. This will necessarily prompt a license check with the Office of the Select Board prior to the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy by Inspectional Services. This change is already in effect." 

Testing approved near proposed Thorndike Place

In an unrelated but also significant development, the board was told that the developer of the proposed Thorndike Place housing project on the Mugar property in East Arlington is being required to provide accurate estimated seasonal-high groundwater measurements to prevent possible flooding and damage to nearby wetlands.So far, the developer has made these estimates through the use of single-measurement test pits, according to a local nonprofit, which believes that an alternate protocol, using continuously monitored wells, is the preferred standard.

“We are concerned that the measurements that have been provided by the developer are not reliable and do not comply with state requirements,” said Arlington Land Trust President Christopher M. Leich. Some weeks ago, a scientist working with the trust advocated for this additional monitoring at a meeting of the town’s Conservation Commission, which is next scheduled to meet March 21.

Leich requested permission to place and operate two monitoring wells throughout March, April and May on town land by the southeast side of Dorothy Road to evaluate the accuracy of the developer's measurements. This was unanimously approved by the Select Board to be done under town supervision.

Thorndike Place has been proposed since 2015; it continues to face opposition by the Select Board, some who live on and near Dorothy Road and the environmental group Coalition to Save the Mugar Wetlands.

Board moves to adjust private-way repair deposit

The board considered four articles intended for next month’s Town Meeting and spent the most time reviewing Article 7: Bylaw Amendment/Betterment Bylaw Revision.

This article was introduced at Feeney’s request, “to see if the town would vote to amend Title III Article 3 of the Town Bylaws: Repairs to Private Ways to revise the criteria, process, and other material terms for the approval and administration of repairs to private ways, including revising the number or percentage of abutters required for a betterment petition when representing an association, and increasing the required deposit before work can commence; or take any action related thereto.”

Many private ways in Arlington are in need of repair; a certain amount of buy-in, financial and otherwise, is needed for this to occur.

Article 7 as originally presented March 4 would have amended Sections 4, 5 and 6 to require that two-thirds of the total number of abutters agree to any given repair project. Additionally, it would have required a petitioning group to deposit two-thirds of the total estimated cost of repair instead of the previously required one-third.

The board was immediately concerned with the latter provision on the basis that two-thirds was too large of an ask. After remarks from both the public and comments from the board, the members decided that 50 percent of the total estimated cost of repair would be feasible.

“I move positive action with the recommended updates to the language with the one edit whereby the requirement for two-thirds of the upfront cost be paid at the time before the project starts be amended to 50 percent of the estimated project cost,” Vice Chair John Hurd said. Diane Mahon seconded this motion, which was followed by a 5-0 vote to approve.

In other business, the board:
    • Agreed to add two extra Select Board meetings, on March 26 and on April 1;
    • Was told that Heidi Driscoll has been named the new superintendent-director of the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District, where about 215 Arlington teens are enrolled;
    • Added to a list of celebrations for Patriots Day weekend, including approval of an event to be hosted by the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum on Monday, April 15, 2024;
    • Heard from Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture Community Engagement Cochair Laurie Bogdan regarding the storm drain mural-painting project -- and approved various murals, no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet, to be placed throughout the town;
    • Voted to accept Kenneth Lubar as a representative for the Jason/Gray Historic District;
    • Approved a food license for Makalu Nepali Restaurant at 325A Mass Ave.;
    • Approved three articles for Town Meeting including Article 12: Bylaw Amendment/John J. Bilafer Arlington Citizens' Scholarship Fund; Article 13: Bylaw Amendment/Leaf Blower Dates of Transition; and Article 56: Local Option/Acceptance of M.G.L Chapter 203C the Prudent Investor Rule;
    • Approved the Select Board meeting minutes of  Feb. 5;
    • Approved the contractor/drainlayer license of USA Excavating;
    • Approved the request for a one-day beer-and-wine license at Robbins Memorial Town Hall for the Beats for EATS' fund-raiser for the Arlington EATS nonprofit organization scheduled for March 16; and
    • Approved an extension for display of the Black History Month banners currently visible on Mass. Ave.

Helmuth led the two-hour-plus hybrid meeting with the help of Board Administrator Ashley Maher. All five board members were present including Stephen W. DeCourcey. The next meeting is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Town Hall, 730 Mass. Ave. Residents can attend in person, watch in real time via all three cable services, see a livestream on ACMi’s YouTube channel or watch a recording of the meeting online within 48 hours there. 

Watch the ACMi video of the March 4 meeting:

 


March 2. 2024: Select Board discusses MBTA, OKs new restaurant, welcomes 250th celebration

 This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Cassidy McNeeley was published Sunday, March 10, 2024. It was updated Tuesday, March 12, to include responses from Town Manager Jim Feeney about restaurant licensure. It was updated Friday, March 15, to add a quote from Public Health Director Natasha Waden about prior food-code violations at the business, and to add a link to the notice of the next Select Board meeting, Monday, March 18, at which the fate of Boston Pizza & Gyro is expected to be discussed.


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