Published in the September 25, 2015 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The Zoning Board of Appeals thinks that a four-story residential building proposed for 404 Lowell St. is too big and too dense for the site. They also are unhappy with the lack of green space and the amount of parking provided.
Attorney Michael McCarthy represented the LLC that would like to construct the building on the currently dilapidated site. Rocco Scippa joined McCarthy at Wednesday night’s hearing as the developer’s representative.
Proposed is building with 16 two-bedroom residential units with four units on each floor.
“I think you’re trying to do too much with too little,” ZBA member Chip Tarbell said. He added that he could not see how the “contemporary square box” type building would fit into the neighborhood, especially given that the building and parking area takes up “practically every square inch of that property.”
The proposed building would be across from the commercial strip mall at Four Corners.
McCarthy admitted that the lot was small but said that the property was located in a business district and argued that what was being proposed is smaller than what could, by right, go there in a business use.
“This is far less intense than an as-of-right business use would be,” McCarthy said.
ZBA members conceded that the applicant met the zoning requirements for parking.
“But there’s zoning and there’s reality,” Tarbell said. Board members pointed out that at least some of the 12 two-bedroom units will have two cars and that having only the proposed 15 parking spaces would result in parking spilling out on to the street and the plaza across the street. They wondered where visitors would park.
Tarbell said that one criterion for granting a Special Permit is that a project not be more detrimental to the neighborhood. He argued that if the board allowed the proposed project it would be creating more problems for the neighborhood.
But McCarthy pointed out that the standard is that it can’t be more detrimental than what is there now. He said that it would be hard to argue that the proposed project would be more detrimental to the neighborhood than the current condition of the lot.
Scippa pointed out that what is currently there is “a horror show.”
“This is a heck of a lot better than what is there now,” McCarthy said.
ZBA members maintained that at 40 foot tall the building would be out-of-place among the surrounding properties. But McCarthy pointed out that in the business zone the height standard is 50 feet. He noted that the apartment building diagonally across the street was every bit as high as what his client was proposing.
Scippa asked for some idea of what number of units the board would be happy with.
Chairman David Hatfield wondered if it could be reduced from 12 units to eight with the building pushed back from the street and additional parking and landscaping added to the front of the building.
ZBA member Jim McBain suggested removing one story.
The board asked to see a rendering showing what the building would look like in context of the surrounding properties.
McCarthy acknowledged that he and his client had some work to do and asked for a four week continuance to the board’s Oct. 28 meeting. The board granted the continuance.
The board made a finding that an existing home at 52 Greenwood Ave. is in fact a legal two family dwelling.
In the process of trying to refinance, the current owner found that there was no legal record of the house as a two-family. Representing the owner, McGrail was able to provide evidence to persuade the board that the house had been in use as a two-family since at least 1925.
The board issued a determination that is a legal two-family dwelling.
The ZBA continued for two weeks a hearing on a property at 14 Spring Ave. McGrail said that there was presently one home on the site and one additional house lot was being proposed.
But he said that in the course of speaking to neighbors outside of the meeting, he was made aware of certain issues and would like time to meet with the neighbors on site.
He also acknowledged that the proposal would additionally need Planning Board and Conservation Commission approval.
The ZBA agreed to continue the hearing to Oct. 14.
The board also reviewed the written decision on Shelter Development’s proposal to build a 130-unit Brightview Senior Living facility on Crescent Street.
The board was mainly happy with the decision as written but offered several suggestions for clarifying language. McGrail agreed to incorporate those suggestions. ZBA Chairman David Hatfield will review the changes before the decision is officially filed.