Published in the March 19, 2019 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The developer of a proposed 40B apartment complex on Tarrant Lane has reduced the number of units in a redesigned plan presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals last week.
Tarrant Lane Apartments was initially proposed on Jan. 9 by developer Anthony Bonacorso as a 190-unit rental development in three five-story buildings buildings. The site in just west of the Hopkins Street Bridge and Route 128, near the Reading line. Currently there are 12 single-family homes on the site that were once used to house families of Coast Guard officers. Bonacorso bought the 3.75-acre property from the federal government in 2017 for $3.6 million.
At the Jan. 9 hearing, ZBA members expressed a number of concerns regarding the size and massing of the buildings, particularly with respect to the proposed five-story building running along the site’s frontage on Hopkins Street. Based on these concerns, the board voted to appoint two of its members to work with the development team to try to work out concerns.
At last week’s ZBA hearing, Bonacorso’s local attorney Ted Regnante said that the development team had met several times with ZBA members Ami Wall and Greg McIntosh on a project redesign aimed at lessening the impact of the proposed buildings in terms of their mass and scale – particularly with respect to the visual impact of the project from Hopkins Street.
Based on those meetings, Regnante said that his development team had prepared a new design for the project.
A major change, Regnante said, involved turning the building along Hopkins Street 90 degrees, so that its short side would face Hopkins Street and its long side would run parallel to Route 128, which would reduce the massing along Hopkins Street. As part of this reconfiguration, the proposed common building (clubhouse) was redesigned and moved to the front of the site, creating a “stepped” appearance with the shorter common building serving as a transition to the taller buildings behind it.
Regnante described another major change that came out of the redesign process in response to ZBA suggestions. Specifically, board members requested that the newly-reoriented building closest to Hopkins Street (Building 2) be tiered by removing the top two stories of the building at the end closest to Hopkins Street. In this way, the building would “step back” from three stories in the front to five stories behind. Similarly, the board members requested that the building in the center of the site (Building 1) be tiered from four to five stories.
Regnante stressed that the development team had also decided, on its own initiative, to further reduce the scope of the project by entirely removing the fifth floors from the two buildings closest to Hopkins Street. The buildings were also reconfigured to have less building height, and the unit mix was modified slightly.
“As a result of these changes, the project has been significantly reduced in terms of size, scale, massing and density,” Regnante told the ZBA last week. “This new site design creates the “tiered” effect that the members of the board indicated was important to them. Specifically, the project site now steps from the one-and-a-half-story common building in the front of the site to the three and four stories of Buildings 1 and 2 in the middle of the site, to Building 3’s five stories in the rear of the site. This creates an effective transition from the single-family homes along Hopkins Street.”
Regnante stressed that the removal of the fifth floors from Buildings 1 and 2 goes beyond even what was requested by the Wall and McIntosh during their meetings with the development team.
“In addition, the site redesign has resulted in a net decrease of 15 units, from 190 to 175,” Regnante noted. “This reduction in units will proportionally reduce the project’s traffic and other impacts to town services and infrastructure.”
Regnante explained that under the new project design, the number of studio units increased from 4 to 9, one-bedroom units decreased from 108 to 94, two-bedroom units decreased from 59 to 54 and three-bedroom units decreased from 19 to 18. Proportional to the reduction in units, the number of affordable units was decreased from 48 to 44. However, Regnante stressed, all of the 175 rental units still remain eligible for inclusion on the town’s affordable housing inventory. If the project is permitted, the town’s affordable housing stock will increase to 8.9% – 113 short of the required 10% under Chapter 40B.
With the decrease in the number of units, Regnante pointed out that the number of parking spaces (garage and surface) would be reduced by approximately 22 spaces, but the ratio would remain above the statewide 40B standard of 1.5 per unit.
Regnante also noted that while the three buildings had been of different sizes in the original layout, in the new design the buildings were closer to equal in size in order to make them fit in the footprint.
Regnante asked project architect Rob Shaefer to review the design and materials to be used on the exterior of the buildings.
Shaefer talked about a dark gray stone material to be used on the lower portion of the buildings, with a lighter gray in the middle portions and white plank material on the upper portion.
ZBA member Chip Tarbell said that he felt that the development team had “made some strides” with their revised plan. However, he said that he still felt that it was a lot of units for the site and could impact traffic. He was also concerned about how much of the building would be visible when approaching the site from the south side of the Hopkins Street Bridge.
Board member Jim McBain said that he thought that building immediately behind the clubhouse still represented an abrupt increase in height. He suggested that “stepping back” the top floor on that side would help achieve a more gradual transition, even if it meant eliminating a few units.
During public testimony, Town Councilor Tony Longo said that he appreciated the reduction in size, but still anticipated concern over the impact of the project on local schools.
Tom Tibbetts of 80 Hopkins St. (across from the site) said that he wanted to see a rendering of what the project would look like from his house. He also questioned the small setback from Hopkins Street.
The hearing was continued to March 27, when the topic will be landscaping as well as any changes to the plan based on last week’s discussion.