Published in the December 11, 2015 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Before the Zoning Board of Appeals agrees to legalize a home at 26 Avon St. as a four-family dwelling, it wants to make sure the house meets all existing codes and has sufficient off-street parking so that parked cars owned by tenants won’t add to existing problems on the narrow street.
Attorney Michael McCarthy represented Fariba Mojtabai, who lives at 168 Main St. and recently purchased the house on Avon Street.
McCarthy said that Building Inspector Jack Roberto agreed that the house is a legal, non-conforming three-family dwelling. But McCarthy argued that it has been used as a four-family house since at least 1957. On behalf of his client, he was asking the ZBA to grant the zoning relief necessary to allow the home to become a legal four-family home.
McCarthy presented evidence from assessor’s records, street lists and utilities showing that the house has had four residential units at least since the 1950s. He said that his client was simply “seeking to legalize what’s been there for some time.”
McCarthy admitted that there could be issues related to proper legal access and egress with certain of the existing units and introduced architect Peter Sandorse to explain what the owner proposed to do to rectify those issues and bring the building into code compliance.
Sandorse presented plans showing modifications that would add the required number egresses for each unit. ZBA members wanted to make sure that any changes, including outside stairways would not detract from the character of the neighborhood.
Mojtabai assured the board that her intention was to create “high level residential units” and to generally improve the property.
McCarthy said that there were already five parking spaces on the property, which is one of the larger residential lots on Avon Street.
Mojtabai said that she would expand the parking to 12 spaces but ZBA member Jim McBain said that he didn’t necessarily want to see all of the grass area paved over to create parking.
McCarthy said that under the bylaw six parking spaces would be required but he understood the neighbors’ desire that a little more off street parking be created.
Peter Scott, who lives across the street at 25 Avon St., said that he wanted “to reinforce that parking has always been an acute problem,” at 26 Avon St. with cars often overflowing into the street. It was a particular problem during the heavy snows of last winter, he told the board.
Cheryl Webb Scott, also of 25 Avon St., said that she was happy that the property will be improved. However, she stressed that it was important that the lot accommodate all cars associated with the property. She also asked for some shrubbery and landscaping to soften the look of the parking area.
Several residents stood up and testified to Mojtabai’s record of improving and maintaining her other properties in “top notch” condition.
The Board of Appeals agreed to continue the hearing to Jan. 13, at which time updated architectural, parking and landscaping plans will be presented.
Attorney Brian McGrail represented the owners of three West Side properties on Converse Street and Park Avenue that abut a 30 foot “paper street.” Paper streets are generally streets that were planned but never built, existing only “on paper.” They are legal rights of way but are usually not drivable.
McGrail said that he was looking for relief on behalf of all of the homeowners so that the paper street could be eliminated and the land that the right of way encompasses could be divided and incorporated into each if the existing lots.
He explained that under the law, the owners of properties along a paper street own to the middle of the right of way. He said that under the current conditions all three owners have legal use rights to the entire area of the paper street. He said that dividing it up would eliminate confusion, define ownership and get rid of a paper street. He also said that the land added to each lot would actually make all of them more legally conforming.
The Zoning Board agreed and issued the required findings along with one variance that will allow the owners of 61 Converse St., 65 Converse St. and 34 Park Ave. to divide up and absorb the paper right of way.