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Salem planners delay hearing on Italian cafe plan

SALEM — Earlier this week, the Planning Board continued a public hearing on the site plan for the new location of the popular Ralphie’s Cafe Italiano restaurant.

The planned 4,300-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant at 91 South Broadway would replace the current smaller restaurant at 386 South Broadway.

The current building at 91 South Broadway, a former jewelry story, would be razed and replaced.

The new building would be on the corner of South Broadway and Belmont Street, and several Belmont Street residents said they fear the new building and expanded parking lot would lead to more traffic and increased flooding in the neighborhood.

Flooding issue

Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff said flooding is a big issue in the neighborhood. An independent engineering review that is pending will help determine if the new restaurant on the site would lead to increased flooding.

Moldoff said the town recently received an independent traffic review of the plan, which the board and developer need more time to review.

The owners of the restaurant are seeking a variance from the Planning Board that would allow for 35 parking spaces on site, where 42 would be required under the town’s zoning laws.

Project engineer Kurt Meisner said that the owners, Ralph and Lisa Fioli, have an agreement with a business across Belmont Street that would allow for some overflow parking if the restaurant needs it.

Belmont Street resident Deanna Nemethy said the existing parking lot at 91 South Broadway is already prone to flooding.

“If they have to extend the parking lot, they will have to raise it up,” Nemethy said. “If they raise it up, the runoff will affect areas down Belmont Street that already get flooded.”

Nemethy said she is also concerned that the restaurant will bring more traffic, including delivery trucks, to Belmont Street.

Commercial district

James Keller, the selectmen’s representative to the Planning Board, said the board needs to see and digest the independent engineering and traffic reviews before it can make any educated decisions on the site plan.

Keller said he will request the town look into cleaning culverts in the Belmont Street area to see if that is contributing to flooding in the neighborhood.

However, no matter the outcome of the Ralphie’s Cafe proposal, Keller noted that South Broadway is a commercial district.

“The reality is that something will be here of a commercial nature, and that something will be on all those properties on Broadway of a commercial nature,” said Keller.

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