LENOX — On the theory that “the third time is the charm,” Shanlen Realty Corp., the owner of Hoff’s service station, has reactivated its proposal to transform the property at 90 Main St. into a modern convenience store.
A special permit application for the proposed redevelopment has been submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is set to review it at the board’s March 3 meeting, via Zoom.
The plan is to relocate automotive repair and towing services but to continue the sale of gas as part of the convenience store business plan, according to the application on file at Town Hall and at townoflenox.com.
The existing structure would be renovated, with plans to be submitted to the Historic District Commission.
“The proposal will improve the aesthetics and character of the building and the surrounding area,” the ZBA application states.
Shanlen Realty also points out that “removing the current use of the property as a repair facility and towing business will decrease traffic, reduce noise pollution, and remove damaged car storage and towing service vehicles in the area.”
The current full-service business is grandfathered as a nonconforming use under current zoning bylaws. The proposed convenience store would conform with commercial zone bylaws as a by-right, permitted use, the application states.
Since 1929, the gas station has been a fixture downtown; towing services and service bays for automotive repair were added in 1997. For most of its history, the location has sold Mobil products, but converted to Sunoco several years ago.
Shanlen applied for a similar special permit in September 2018 but subsequently withdrew the application.
Glenn J. Hoff Sr., who started working at the service station in 1969 and who died in April 2018, informally proposed redeveloping the site in 2011, as the profit margin from the sale of gasoline declined sharply.
After a series of hearings during an 18-month period, the ZBA rejected the proposal, 4-1, in November 2013, after prolonged legal wrangling over a challenge by adjacent small-market owner Daniel O’Brien. He sold his market last year to the adjacent Frankie’s Ristorante, which opened its second business, Pizzeria Boema, there last summer.
The new application prepared by Ron Fortune of Consulting and Design LLC, of Lee, includes the following provisions:
• Under its new name, Hoff’s/Chucky’s/Sams Food would reduce the number of gas pumps from three, with six filling locations, to two, with four filling locations. That would improve parking and traffic flow, the application states, because cars will not be parked awaiting service, nor will there be tow truck congestion while cars are refueling.
• The company will relocate its towing and automobile repair business to another site to be determined.
• Under a zoning bylaw encouraging adaptive reuse of sites in the commercial district, the site is exempt from parking space quantity requirements, parking design standards, off-street parking layout and loading bays/space.
• The special permit is required to establish that the change in the use of the property “will not be substantially more detrimental than the existing nonconforming use to the neighborhood” and “the adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh the beneficial impacts to the town and the neighborhood.”
• The town should experience a positive economic and fiscal impact, since the site would be upgraded, the renovations will be more attractive to the surrounding businesses and the renovated building may have a higher assessed value, resulting in an increase to the town’s tax revenue.
• The town would see a positive employment impact from the new facility, as well as from the service and towing business if it can relocate in town.
Currently, Hoff’s is one of the very rare full-service stations in the area, meaning motorists cannot pump their own fuel. If the convenience store proposal is approved, customers will do their own gas pumping.
Shanlen Realty representatives were not immediately available for comment.