Published May 27, 2021
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — If it were solely up to the Select Board and the Community Planning Commission, local resident Sergio Coviello would get his wish to re-zone the former Seven Acres Turkey Farm from residential to Industrial/Office (I/O) at June Town Meeting.
As discussed throughout last year’s process when the town was attempting to exercise its right of first refusal on the land once Coviello made a bona fide offer to purchase the farm and adjacent homes at 4, 12 and 14 Concord St., he is following through with his originally stated plans to move his electrical business from another location on Concord Street to this site.
A simple majority of voters at the Special Town Meeting last August voted in favor of the town buying the farm but a two-thirds majority was required for it to pass, so the measure failed.
In order for Coviello to follow through with his stated plans, he filed a Citizens’ Petition to amend the town’s Zoning Bylaws: Map 18, Parcels 13, 14 and 15, which are numbered 4, 12 and 14 Concord St.
His citizens’ petition is the second to last article on the annual Town Meeting warrant — No. 31 out of 32. And No. 32 is only a formality that would enable the town’s zoning map to be updated to reflect the change if Article 31 passes.
At Monday night’s informational hearings on all 32 warrant articles, the Select Board had its first opportunity to discuss the proposal for the first time with Coviello’s attorney, Jill Mahn.
Mahn explained that it is Coviello’s intention to keep both of the homes in place – the farmhouse in which three generations of the Magliozzi family resided during the 80-plus years the farm was in operation – and the adjacent two-family home. Doing so will retain the residential character of the neighborhood located not far from the intersections of Park Street West and Southwick Road.
Only a building envelope for the future Coviello Electrical business was depicted on a sketch of the site at this preliminary stage, but as Mahn pointed out, it is set back on the site and “in line with Bobcat of Boston,” which is the nearest business abutter to the farmland.
“This use almost represents a great interim zoning district,” said Mahn, adding, “it is a 15-acre parcel of land. It would be nice to have a development to generate tax revenue without any additional impact to the town.” She noted that the property also includes a paper street.
If the land were developed for residential use, it would likely support a 15-lot subdivision, she said. This use is expected to be less intense, according to Mahn, because for this type of business employees come to the site to pick up materials, load up their trucks and leave; then return at the end of the day.
Community Planning Commission Chairman Warren Pearce said when the plan was presented to his board it also did not include any hard numbers, such as building dimensions, but he said the proponents indicated that “they didn’t need that residential space out front and it is a good buffer.”
Mahn explained that if the re-zoning of these three parcels passed her client will also return to the CPC to create an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan.
If the zoning is changed Coviello would be returning to the CPC for Site Plan Review of a fully engineered proposal which would also include traffic studies, Pearce said. The land is also bordered by wetlands to the rear so the Conservation Commission would also weigh in.
Select Board member Stephen O’Leary recalled that after the failed vote at the Special Town Meeting he “took some solace that the intended purchaser was Mr. Coviello.” O’Leary added that Coviello has a “vested interest” in the town and understands “the concerns and needs of the residents,” which makes him a good partner.
“I congratulate him and hope he continues to thrive and stay in North Reading, and I will be supporting it,” O’Leary said of the zoning change.
Select Board member Vincenzo Stuto agreed. Since he does not know Coviello personally he “asked around” and stated he received “all positive opinions” about him. As for the traffic flow question, he said, “I would like him to have as much traffic flow as 15 homes times two cars plus visitors,” which would be at least the equivalent of a 15-lot subdivision if it was developed as it is currently zoned for single family homes.
Select Board Chairwoman Kate Manupelli agreed with Pearce’s assessment. “This has to go through a public hearing process,” Manupelli said. “In order for him to relocate his business, this zoning change has to happen… I would echo what Mr. O’Leary and Mr. Stuto said and appreciate the input of the CPC. Mr. Coviello has been up front this entire process…He knows the traffic flow already because his business isn’t that far up the road. He has lived here and he knows how this area has changed. I am fully in favor of it as well for him to use it for the way he wants to use it.” Select Board member Liane Gonzalez also agreed with her colleagues. “I also was in favor of the town buying the turkey farm and supported that but with it not going through I feel we are pretty lucky to have Mr. Coviello and I fully support this too.”