Published in the March 29, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Zoning Board of Appeals this week got its first look at Greenwood Station, a proposed three-story, 27-unit 40B apartment building at 998-1000 Main Street, across from Greenwood Plaza. The plan calls for nine one-bedroom, 15 two-bedroom and three three-bedroom units. Ground-level podium parking for 30 cars is proposed, but ZBA members questioned whether that was an adequate amount of parking.

The developer, Eric Kenworthy of Melrose, was represented at the initial hearing by Jeff Engler, an affordable housing consultant and developer.

Engler, who said that he has been involved with many multi-family developments, called Greenwood Station “a modest proposal in a great location.” He also characterized it as “the quintessential smart growth location,” noting that the site is on the MBTA bus line and a short walk to the Greenwood commuter rail station. He also pointed out that it would be across the street from a “much more intense use,” Greenwood Plaza.

Engler called upon Rick Salvo of Engineering Alliance to describe the site. Salvo said that presently there is a three-family home and a single-family home on the 32,740 square-foot parcel. He said that the back area of the lot will remain in a natural and undeveloped state. The footprint of the proposed building will be 60 feet wide and 160 feet long, with the narrow side facing Main Street. Salvo said that the project would comply with most zoning regulations, including setbacks, but relief would be sought for parking.

Architect Daniel DiLullo showed a rendering of the proposed building exterior that would consist of concrete block and fieldstone on the lower level, with clapboard siding above and a Mansard roof.

ChipTarbell and other ZBA members indicated that they did not care for the architectural design as presented.

Engler wanted to know the best way to get guidance as to the board’s preference for exterior design. After some discussion, the board assigned members Jim McBain and Ami Wall to work with DiLullo to develop a different architectural plan.

Traffic Engineer Scott Thornton of Vanasse & Associates said that he had conducted a traffic study of the area and maintained that the project would not generate much vehicular traffic due in part to its proximity to public transit.

Zoning Board member Chip Tarbell noted that the project would have to go to the Traffic Advisory Committee. He called the parking issue “the elephant in the room.”

Things got a little heated when ZBA members insisted that insufficient parking was being provided. (According to ZBA chairman David Hatfield, the town’s Zoning Bylaw would require 42 parking spaces, based on the number and size of the units.) McBain wanted to know why some of the undeveloped space in the rear couldn’t be used to fulfill the parking requirements.

Engler said that the rear of the site consisted of a large amount of topography and ledge and it would be very expensive to create any additional parking there.

He further maintained that his client was fulfilling the parking requirements. He insisted that most parking requirements were written in an earlier time and for a home ownership market. He said that he had worked on permitting for thousands of units of multifamily housing in recent years, all of which had very low parking ratios. He maintained that fewer and fewer renters own cars and considering the proximity to public transportation and the increasing popularity of services like Uber, he was “very comfortable” with the 30 parking spaces that were being proposed.

Engler claimed that under Chapter 40B, his client did not have to adhere to the parking requirements that the board was citing. Tarbell said that if the board determined that it was a matter of safety, they could require adherence to parking standards.

Tarbell said that it would be “important to see” how the Traffic Advisory Committee reacts to the parking question.

The property owner and developer, Eric Kenworthy, was asked about his background in building multi-unit housing. Kenworthy cited an 89-unit building in Everett, which he sold off once the permitting was approved. He said that he is currently building a 10-unit project.

Tarbell asked Kenworthy if he was planning to sell off the Wakefield project if he got approved. Kenworthy denied that was his intention, maintaining that he planned to keep it as a rental property.

Two abutters spoke when the hearing was opened to public testimony.

Lisa DiPaola, who lives at 974 Main St., said that she was very concerned about traffic. She said that traffic is very congested from 2:45 p.m., when the Greenwood School gets out, through the afternoon rush hour. She was also worried about the potential for blasting, although the developer said that no blasting was anticipated.

Maryjane Welford, also of 974 Main St., said that she was in favor of doing something with the site, as long as it’s appropriate for the neighborhood. But she took exception to Engler’s characterization that commuters don’t own vehicles. She said that she walks to the train to go to work, but she still owns a car because she also has to be able to get to other places. She was also concerned about traffic and the project’s potential impact on Greenwood School enrollment.

The hearing was continued to April 24, when the focus will be on traffic.