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TOWN OF HINGHAM
BOARD OF APPEALS
Applicant: South Shore Bank
1530 Main Street
South Weymouth, MA 02190
Premises: 99 South Street
Hingham, MA 02043
Deed Reference: Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Book 41524, Page 184, and
Plymouth County Land Court Registry Certificate of Title 110616, Book 553, Page 16
SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS:
This matter came before the Zoning Board of Appeals on the Application of South Shore Bank, and its affiliate, Cambridge Mortgage Group, for a Special Permit A2 under § III-G. 4. b of the Zoning By-Law, to include Site Plan Review and such other relief as necessary, in order to use a 4,000 square foot section of the existing structure at 99 South Street as the location for a Banking Center for South Shore Bank and its affiliate, Cambridge Mortgage Group, in the Business A Zoning District and within the Downtown Overlay District.
The Board of Appeals and Planning Board heard the application at a duly advertised and noticed joint public hearing on May 15, 2013 at the Town Hall before a panel consisting of regular members Joseph Fisher, Chairman, W. Tod McGrath, and Joseph Freeman.
Planning Board members present were Judy Sneath, Chairman; William Ramsey, Clerk; Sarah Corey; and Gary Tondorf-Dick. The Applicant was represented by Attorney Stephen J. McLaughlin.
At the conclusion of the May 15th public hearing session the Planning Board continued the Site Plan Review portion of the public hearing to Monday, May 20, 2013, and the Zoning Board continued its portion of the public hearing with regard to the issuance of a Special Permit A2, to Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The public hearing and deliberations were conducted by a panel consisting of regular members Joseph Fisher, Chairman, W. Tod McGrath, and Joseph Freeman.
Attorney McLaughlin made the following representations to the Board on behalf of the Applicant in support of this Application:
- South Shore Bank currently has approximately 1,500 Hingham residents as customers, but does not have any facility within Hingham to service these local clients. From the proposed location at 99 South Street, the nearest branch office of South Shore Bank is approximately three (3) miles away in East Weymouth or roughly seven (7) miles away in Norwell. In order to better serve its existing customers, South Shore Bank desires to establish a new style of ‘Banking Center’ in Hingham that is designed and intended to provide education and training in the evolving aspects of electronic and ‘on-line’ banking as well as a wide variety of educational training and seminars, and events, on various banking, mortgage, and investment topics.
- South Shore Bank’s wholly owned subsidiary, Cambridge Mortgage Group, is currently headquartered in Downtown Hingham at 50 South Street. In the past two (2) years Cambridge Mortgage Group has approved approximately Fifty Million ($50,000,000) Dollars in home loans for Hingham residents The Bank also offers a variety of financing options, including so-called “jumbo” loans to assist first-time home buyers. The success and growth of Cambridge Mortgage Group has revealed that the current location is too small for future operations, and that the second floor location, and limited on-street parking, is a hindrance to customer convenience. To address these concerns, the Bank will consolidate the Cambridge Mortgage Group operations within the ‘Banking Center’ facility so that all of the various financial and banking functions are located under one roof, and so that off-street parking can be available to the customers.
- South Shore Bank’s proposed ‘Banking Center’ concept breaks away from the traditional version of a typical “9 to 5” branch with tellers handling deposits, payments and withdrawals. Instead, South Shore Bank’s concept reflects its vision of a “one-stop” financial service provider emphasizing both in-person, face-to-face interaction with customers, as well as the modern, highly automated and computer-based and ‘on-line’ banking concepts and culture which has evolved in recent years. The proposed ‘Banking Center’ will not have teller windows which are common in a ‘traditional style’ bank. However, the ‘Banking Center’ staff, consisting of approximately ten to twelve (10 to 12) employees will provide other banking and financial services, computer-based financial and banking training to its existing and new customers, as well as commercial lending, personal loans, and residential mortgage loans.
- In order adequately to service its customers and clientele the Bank proposes to operate the ‘Banking Center’ beyond the ‘9 to 5’ schedule which is typical of most banks. Instead, the Banking Center will be open and operating six (6) days a week (Monday through Saturday) on a regular and consistent extended hour weekday schedule, with a shorter schedule possible on Saturdays.
- South Shore Bank’s wealth management officers assigned to the proposed ‘Banking Center’ will also work on the same extended day schedule designed to afford customers the opportunity for meetings after the customers have completed their own work days. The wealth management officers will be utilizing the ‘Banking Center’ to provide investment and retirement planning seminars and training at various times and schedules; including during the normal daytime hours, as well ‘after hours’ and on week-ends. The wealth management officers will also utilize the ‘Banking Center’ to meet with existing clients as well as prospective clients.
- The Cambridge Mortgage Group will also be staffed for the same extended hours of operation to similarly provide customers the option of mortgage banking ‘after hours’. In fact, the Bank proposes to offer the customer the option to have loan closings conducted ‘after hours’ in the ‘Banking Center’.
- Aside from customer-based functions and activities, South Shore Bank will itself utilize the ‘Banking Center’ to conduct its own functions, meetings, seminars, training, and similar events, both during regular banking hours, and ‘after hours’.
- South Shore Bank acknowledges that the purpose and function of the Downtown Hingham Overlay District By-Law is to create and maintain a vibrant mix of businesses to draw customers to Downtown Hingham and to generate and facilitate foot traffic from one business establishment to another for the benefit of all. The Bank is also aware that there is one school of thought that disdains banks as being ‘stand alone’ institutions and aloof from other neighboring businesses and merchants and not constituting a true ‘retail’ use, unlikely to generate any symbiotic relationship or support of other ‘retail’ merchants or businesses, and adding little or no vitality to a town center. This unenthusiastic view of banks would be particularly applicable to a typical single function branch bank operating on a standard ‘9 to 5’ schedule (or less), especially one with a drive-up teller that services momentary and transient customer traffic. South Shore Bank understands that such a staid and boring branch would not likely be embraced by Downtown Hingham merchants or the local permit granting authorities.
- However, by comparison, the Bank represents that its proposed ‘Banking Center’ will be a multi-functional, extended hours facility, that will draw customers to Downtown Hingham for periods of extended duration, during all times of the day and week, from early morning, to afternoon, to after hours and on Saturdays. The customers and clients of South Shore Bank and Cambridge Mortgage Group will consist of non-Hingham residents who may be totally unfamiliar with the area, as well as local residents who are already likely familiar with the merchants of Downtown Hingham. The proposed ‘Banking Center’ will serve to draw both non-local and local customers to Downtown Hingham where those customers will have the opportunity to visit the other merchants, and restaurants.
- In addition, the Bank represents that the location of the proposed ‘Banking Center’ in Downtown Hingham will cause the Bank to provide even further support to the Downtown business merchants, service business and restaurants. More specifically, the Bank represents that the Bank’s wealth management officers commonly lunch and dine with their existing and prospective clients to discuss the concerns and needs of the clients in a relaxed and informal setting. The Bank further states that like the wealth management officers, the Mortgage Group officers will utilize the ‘Banking Center’ facility to conduct, and meet with potential and existing clients. After such business events, it is also common for Mortgage Group officers to lunch or dine with the customers at Downtown establishments. And, the presence of South Shore Bank employees at the ‘Banking Center’, each of whom will need to run day-to-day errands, and have regular meals, will also serve to generate business for the various Downtown Hingham merchants and restaurants.
- The Applicant has submitted to the Board a summary of the customer service type events typically held at its branch offices, as well as proposed offerings specific to the Hingham location. The Applicant states that its proposed use requires 20 parking spaces and there are 76 parking spaces present on the subject property.
The Zoning Board of Appeals received written letters of support from several Downtown merchants. The Board heard favorable remarks from representatives of a Downtown restaurant and Downtown insurance agency, both of whom confirmed that Cambridge Mortgage Group has a history of referring its customers to their establishments and businesses, and that they are hoping for even more referrals with the change in location of the Bank’s proposed facility and expanded services within the Downtown Overlay District. The Zoning Board of Appeals also noted that it has received no comments or letters in opposition to the Bank’s proposal from any of the Downtown merchants.
The Applicant submitted, along with its Application, the following:
- Letter to Eileen McCracken, Town Clerk, from Stephen J. McLaughlin dated April 22, 2013 (1 page)
- Application for Site Plan Approval in Association with Application for Special Permit A2 (2 pages)
- Parking Plan of Land in Hingham, Massachusetts 85-99 South Street dated March 29, 2013 prepared and stamped by Edward T. Eisenhaure, RPE, RLS, 5 Codman Road, Hingham MA (1 sheet)
- Unstamped ALTA/ASCM Land Title Survey of 85-99 South Street dated May 7, 2012 prepared by Edward T. Eisenhaure, 5 Codman Road, Hingham (1 page)
- Unstamped Proposed Floor Plan 4 dated 12/2/12 prepared by Towne Architects & Co., Braintree, MA (1 page)
- Copy of Building Permit No: 1200722 issued on 10/03/2012 for renovation to walkway & exterior including unstamped plans dated 09-20-12 prepared by Alan Kearney Architect, 3 Summer Street, Hingham, MA including cover sheet, A1 Floor Plan, A2 Elevations, A3 Details and colored sketch showing Front Elevation and Side Elevation (6 pages)
- Owner’s Authorization Letter dated April 18, 2013 signed by Robert L. Shepard, Manager of 99 South Street LLC (1 page)
- Copy of the Retail Real Estate Lease dated February 14, 2013 between 99 South Street LLC and South Shore Bank and its wholly owned subsidiaries, including, but not limited to, Cambridge Mortgage Group, LLC.
- The certified list of abutters (11 pages including cover)
- Check for $500.00 to cover the filing fee
The joint public hearing included an in-depth review and discussion by members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and of the Planning Board concerning the history of the Downtown Hingham Overlay District By-Law as set forth in Section III-G of the Zoning By-Law, as well as the recent zoning amendment requiring that banks and financial institutions seeking to be located on the first floor of a building within the Overlay District must first demonstrate that the proposed use is consistent with the purposes and objectives of the Overlay District By-Law and obtain a Special Permit A2 (§ III-G. of the Zoning By-Law).
FINDINGS AND DECISION:
Based on the information and representation submitted and received at the hearing, and on other information made available to the Board as part of the public record, the Board made the following findings:
a. The Applicant’s proposed use, as presented, is designed to encourage regular interaction with the general public on a walk-in basis;
b. The Applicant’s proposal is likely to encourage additional visitors to the Downtown area for shopping and dining; this is additionally supported by the Applicant’s regular practice of actively trying to promote adjacent businesses on a referral basis, with the manager of a nearby restaurant explaining to the Board that the Applicant’s anticipated presence is already a benefit to the manager’s establishment;
c. The Applicant’s proposal will not adversely impact parking availability – it maintains the status quo in the area; and,
e. Although not part of this Application, improvements to the building façade are underway and are expected to be an improvement to the area.
The Board discussed the exhibit that was submitted by the Applicant to help explain how this proposed use differs from a traditional banking use. Board members stated that they relied heavily on the exhibit and they will hold the Applicant to following through on the representations made before the Board. A copy of said exhibit is attached hereto as Addendum A. Mr. Fisher stated that there was substantial testimony that this proposed use will meet the criteria of Section III-G (2) because the Applicant’s proposal differs significantly from a standard bank business model. Mr. Freeman agreed and stated that this proposal is highly likely to draw new visitors to the Downtown, and as such, meets the intent of the By-Law. Mr. Fisher reiterated that the proposed use needs to be “more” than just a Bank to meet the intent of the By-Law.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to GRANT the Special Permit A-2 to use a 4,000 square foot portion of the existing building as a location for a Banking Center for South Shore Bank and its subsidiary, Cambridge Mortgage Group, consistent with the representation made by the Applicant at this hearing, subject to any conditions imposed as part of the Planning Board Site Plan Review process, and subject to the following Conditions:
1. The Applicant shall perform at a minimum the activities as presented, including the activities as described in the exhibit which is attached hereto as Addendum A;
2. The Applicant will offer on-site bank-related training on demand for customers;
3. This permit shall be subject to review and possible modification if the Applicant’s business activities deviate from what was represented to the Board;
4. The Applicant shall report annually, in January, to the Building Commissioner certifying that the activities conducted during the prior calendar year at the 99 South Street ‘Banking Center’ facility were consistent with the terms of the Permit, including a description of each event, occasion, and/or service offered, together with the number of attendees per event.
5. There will be no teller windows in the ‘Banking Center’.
6. This Special Permit A2 is granted to, and limited to, South Shore Bank and its affiliate mortgage entity, Cambridge Mortgage Group. This Special Permit A2 does not “run with the land” and is not transferable to any other entity. Any proposed transfer of the business will require review and approval by the Board consistent with the terms and provisions of the Zoning By-Law then in effect.
7. An updated Parking Plan, together with a current Parking Table, showing the allocation of off-street parking spaces on a tenant-by-tenant basis shall be submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board. (Planning Board Site Plan Review Condition)
8. The Premises Owner agrees to re-paint the parking lot striping in conjunction with the performance of exterior improvement on the second structure (i.e. 85 South Street) (Planning Board Site Plan Review Condition)
9. There shall be no dumpster pick-up before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM. (Planning Board Site Plan Review Condition)
This Decision shall not become effective until (i) the Town Clerk has certified on a copy of this Decision that twenty (20) days have elapsed after the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed or that if such an appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, and that (ii) a copy thereof has been duly recorded in the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and/or Plymouth County Registry District of the Land Court, and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the owner of record or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.
For the Board of Appeals
Dated: July ___, 2013 Joseph M. Fisher
ADDENDUM A TO SPECIAL PERMIT A2
GRANTED TO SOUTH SHORE BANK / CAMBRIDGE MORTGAGE GROUP
The following was submitted by South Shore Bank and Cambridge Mortgage Group and is incorporated herein as an integral part of the Decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and constitutes a Review and Performance Standard to be met by the Bank as referenced in the Decision.
South Shore Bank hosts numerous customer service type events at our branches. These events draw in a great deal of foot traffic from both our customers and potential customers. We intend to extend these customer service events to the Retail Financial Center in Downtown Hingham. It is our belief that these events will generate business for the restaurants and merchants Downtown. Below is a list of events we hosted this past year and the approximate quantity of people who attended each event.
- Three Shred Days with between 65 and 175 attendees at each
- Family Fun Day with approximately 40 families attending
- Thirteen Mortgage Refinance Events with approximately 6 to 10 attendees each
- An Easter themed event with an Easter egg hunt that focused on 529 College Savings Plans. Approximately 25 families attended this event.
- A Halloween themed event that focused on 529 College Savings Plans. Approximately 25 families attended this event.
- A Christmas themed event with Santa that focused on 529 College Savings Plans. Approximately 20 families attended this event.
- Four other 529 College Savings events with approximately 5 families attending each
- Small Business event with approximately 30 small business owners attending
- Quarterly Customer Appreciation Events with approximately 10 attendees each
- Two Business Vendor events with approximately 15 attendees each
- Two First Time Home buyer seminars with approximately 70 attendees (each seminar is two night)
We also plan on other offerings in our Financial center in Hingham:
- Monthly Mobile Banking training seminars 5-10 people
- Monthly on-line banking training 5-10 people
- Quarterly Investment/Retirement Planning seminar 15 people
- We plan on doing various seminars using local businesses such as: Home Improvement, decorating, remodeling, technology training, budgeting and nutrition 10-15 people
- We plan on working with the High School on financial literacy programs
Our current mortgage office brings the following to Hingham Square:
- Approximately 25-30 closings per month held in our office. These closing are usually held after hours. Closing usually have anywhere between 4 to 10 people.
- After hours application appointments 15-20 per month.
- Customer visits 30 per month
- Currently, we have 1500 customers in Hingham that when needed go to other Bank offices not in Hingham.