Salem St. projects review continues

Jan 15, 2021 by

Published in the January 15, 2021 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — One of the two proposed residential building projects on Salem Street appears close to wrapping up the permitting process with the Zoning Board of Appeals, while the other looks to be heading back to the drawing board.

A number of outstanding issues with a proposed 30-unit condominium building at 610 Salem St. were addressed at the ZBA meeting Wednesday night. The board is expected to review a list of conditions for the project as well as an operation and maintenance plan and construction schedule at its next meeting. 

Meanwhile, members of the board continued to insist that a 21-unit mid-rise apartment building proposed for 525-527 Salem St. is too big for the site and situated too close to the street.

Regarding 610 Salem St. (the former Taylor Rental property), the ZBA at its meeting in December had asked the applicant’s team to address a number of issues. One of those was the location of the water meter room. Architect Peter Sandorse this week presented plans showing the location of the water meters in a room inside the ground level parking garage.

Another issue was the lighting in the parking garage. Some members felt that light coming through the windows could be too bright. Sandorse and board members discussed using very low level lighting with motion sensors to turn additional lights on and off  only when needed.

Board members had also requested additional renderings of what the building would look like approaching on Salem Street from Wakefield. Sandorse provided several images showing the what the proposed building would look like in different seasons.

Sandorse also displayed a drawing of the roof layout showing the location of mechanical units. He said that he had reduced the height of the building by three feet in order to add a three-foot parapet to screen the mechanical units from view.

When the hearing was opened to the public, Susan Wetmore of Sunset Drive said that while she appreciated that this project would represent a significant improvement to the site, she remained concerned about the cumulative impact of traffic from three new housing developments in close proximity on Salem Street.

Rick Stewart of Salem Street thought that the buildings as proposed were “just too big.” He also decried the fact that the town appears to be filling up business-zoned districts with residential projects. He wondered why the town hired an Economic Development director when residential projects continue to come into commercial districts.

ZBA member Chip Tarbell expressed frustration at a lack of public understanding of the ZBA’s role. He noted that the ZBA is not part of the town’s planning process. The board’s role, he noted, is to handle proposals as they are brought before them, not to dictate what those projects should be.

The hearing was continued to Jan. 27. The board expects an operation and maintenance plan, a construction schedule and draft conditions to be presented at that time.

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Architect Peter Sandorse is also on the team for the proposed 21-unit apartment building at 525-527 Salem St. The attorney for the project, Brian McGrail, asked Sandorse to discuss the changes that had been made in response to the board’s previous feedback.

Sandorse said that by making adjustments to the building’s footprint and by reducing the size of the travel lane in the rear parking lot, he was able to push the building back three feet from the street and also shift the building five feet to the right.

He said that he had also redesigned the front entryway to give it more of a residential look, as requested by the board.

But several board members, including Greg McIntosh, still felt that the building as shown in renderings was too imposing and too close to the roadway, to the point where it looked like it was looming over Salem Street.

McIntosh said that moving the building back three feet really didn’t accomplish much, adding that it still looked like it was “slammed onto the site.” He suggested that the issues had more to do with the overall size of the building. He suggested that removing the top floor would help to make it less imposing. It was also suggested that reducing the number of units would mean that less parking would be required in the rear, allowing space to move the building still further back from the street.

The board asked the project team to go back and consider the board’s comments and see if there was a way to resolve those concerns.

The hearing was continued to Jan. 27. 

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