Published in the October 29, 2015 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — A new proposal would turn the office buildings at 27 and 37 Water St. into a mixed use, commercial/multifamily complex with retail on the ground floor and high-end residential apartments on the upper floors.
The concept was introduced at last night’s meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Attorney Michael McCarthy represented the owner of the buildings, Francesco Pasciuto, in his application for Special Permits and Site Plan Review in connection with the project.
McCarthy reminded the board that the properties were once the home of shoe manufacturer L.B. Evans. That factory closed in 1987 and the property was purchased by Pasciuto. Currently the buildings are primarily offices, with some light industrial in the rear of the building on the lower level.
McCarthy said that the concept calls for a restaurant with outdoor dining on the first floor of 37 Water St., with apartments on the floor above.
The idea proposed for the street level of 27 Water St. would be similar to what is there now, with a retail, mini-mall type atmosphere. The upper three floors would be converted to apartments. Between the two side-by-side buildings, there would be a mix of 46 one and two-bedroom apartments.
McCarthy introduced Steve Fleming, the site engineer for the proposed project, who gave a preliminary presentation on parking. He said that the town bylaw would call for 228 parking spaces for the use proposed but showed plans calling for 131 spaces.
ZBA members expressed concerns about the amount of parking as well as traffic issues around the buildings but traffic engineer Jason Plourde noted that the project plans were in the early stages and there would be a full traffic study and meetings with Traffic Advisory Committee where traffic and parking would be addressed. He acknowledged that what is there now “is not going to be the ending point.”
Plourde maintained that by replacing offices with apartments, the site would generate less weekday morning and afternoon traffic than it does now.
Fleming added that the final proposal package would be much more defined.
ZBA member Chip Tarbell said that he thought the concept was great.
“It’s directly in line with what we want to see happen downtown,” Tarbell said.
ZBA member Frank Hayes said that he saw parking as the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Tarbell noted that utilities like water, sewer and electrical were among a long list of issues that would need to be addressed. He suggested that the board and the applicant try to tackle one subject per meeting, as has been done with other large projects that have come before the ZBA.
The hearing was continued to Nov. 18, when the parties agreed to focus on utilities, drainage and site engineering issues.
The ZBA made a finding that will allow McDonald Funeral Home on Yale Avenue to replace its current sign with a new, more traditional-looking carved sign.
Representing the McDonald family, attorney Brian McGrail pointed out that the current, internally lit box sign at the funeral home is in a significant state of disrepair. He said that the proposed new carved sign would be mounted on two granite posts. It would be externally lit and would sit farther back on the property than the current sign.
He said that Building Inspector Jack Roberto had determined that the old sign was a legal, non-conforming sign. McGrail said that he was looking for a finding from the board that the proposed new sign would not me more detrimental to the neighborhood than the current sign. He argued that the new sign would in fact be a significant improvement.
ZBA member Jim McBain objected to the granite posts, suggesting that wooden posts would provide a more residential look on the residential street.
But Tarbell argued that because they were simply being asked to make a finding, the board would be overstepping its bounds if it tried to dictate the type of sign posts that the property owner could use. He said that it might be a different matter if they were reviewing a larger project with site plan review and Special Permits involved.
The board voted 4-1, with McBain opposed, to issue the requested finding and allow the sign as presented.
A scheduled hearing on an application to build a 12-unit residential building at 404 Lowell St. was postponed and continued to the board’s Nov. 18 meeting.
Another hearing on John Spinello’s plans to create two separate lots with one single family residence and one two-family residence at 14 Spring Ave. was also continued to Nov. 18.