W. Water apartment plan doesn’t fly again

Feb 14, 2020 by

Published in the February 14, 2020 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The latest plans for 33 Water St. were not even officially filed before they were shot down by the Zoning Board of Appeals this week. In recent years the building currently on the site has been used as a house of worship. The applicant wants to raze that building and constructing a multi-unit residential building.

At a “pre-application meeting” on Wednesday night, representatives of Hearthstone Development, LLC sought to gauge the reaction of the board to their new idea for a 13-unit, mid-rise apartment building at 33 Water Street. Last month, they were allowed to withdraw without prejudice a proposal for a 20-unit building on the same site after the ZBA pointed out that they had not applied for the proper relief under the Zoning Bylaws.

It was suggested at the January hearing that 20-units was too many for the site and they could come back for a pre-application hearing to get the ZBA’s feedback for a smaller project prior to going to the expense of filing an application.

On Wednesday night, Kevin Johnson, principal of Hearthstone Development, LLC, and his attorney, Philip C. Jack, presented renderings of what they had in mind for a 13-unit project on the site.

But the project floated this week was greeted less than enthusiastically by the board, as members felt that the new 13-unit proposal was still to big for the size of the lot and did not fit in with the residential character of the neighborhood.

ZBA member Chip Tarbell questioned how they could construct a project with 5-foot setbacks from the property lines. He noted that the proposed building would be practically up against the sidewalk along the front.

Board member Tom Lucey wanted to see what the proposed building would look like in context with other other buildings in the neighborhood.

ZBA member Jim McBain pointed out that there was not even any space in front for landscaping to soften the sheer face of the building.

Board member Ami Wall felt the proposed building was “too flat, too wide and too tall.”

Tarbell agreed that the proposed building left no room on the site for green space. While 13 units met the criteria for what would be allowed based on lot size, Tarbell said, they were trying to put an urban building in a residential neighborhood.

“Even if the zoning allows you to do 13 units,” he said, “that’s not what we’re looking for on a residential street like West Water Street.”

Johnson, who currently has the property under agreement to purchase, agreed to re-think what he was proposing. He cited the asking price of the property, but Tarbell said that the economics of the project were not the the board’s concern.

Johnson and Jack said that they had met with 18-20 neighbors on Tuesday night and they were considering purchasing other adjacent lots to create a larger buildable area.

Tarbell said that they were welcome to come back for another informal meeting with another proposal, but strongly suggested shrinking the project and putting some green space around it to make it more residential.

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In other business this week, the ZBA:

• Approved Special Permits and made the necessary findings that will allow Anthony Arcari to construct a 16-unit mid-rise apartment building at 259 Water Street.

• Granted the necessary zoning relief that will allow the new owners of the Mobil gas station and convenience store at 950 Main Street in Greenwood to make improvements to the site and install larger gas tanks.

• Made findings that will allow the continuation of a nonconforming use and allow improvements to the apartment building at 4 Wakefield Avenue.

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