West Water St. project withdrawn

Jan 10, 2020 by

Published in the January 10, 2020 edition.


WAKEFIELD – A plan to build a 20-unit, mid-rise apartment building at 33 West Water Street was withdrawn by the applicant this week after the Zoning Board of Appeals pointed out to him that he had not applied for the proper relief from the Zoning Bylaws. But the applicant indicated that he will be back with a new proposal.

On Dec. 10, 2019, Hearthstone Development, LLC filed an application for a Special Permit and Site Plan Approval under Article VI, Section 190-32 of the Wakefield Zoning Bylaws to build a 20-unit mid-rise apartment building at 33 West Water Street.

In recent years, the building currently on the site has been used as a church. At one time, it was the headquarters of Wahpatuck Tribe 54, Improved Order of Red Men.

Kevin Johnson of Somerville is the registered agent for Hearthstone Development, LLC which has an agreement to purchase the property. The current owner is listed as “33 West Water Street, LLC,” with Susan J. Mahony, Esq., of Wakefield listed as the representative.

At Wednesday’s opening ZBA hearing on the project, Kevin Johnson was present along with his attorney, Philip C. Jack of Framingham.

At the outset of the hearing, ZBA Chairman David Hatfield informed Jack and his client that they would likely have to file for additional relief under the Zoning Bylaw beyond that for which they had already applied. Hatfield explained that they could either continue the hearing to a later date and in the meantime make the additional required filings or they could withdraw the current application and file a whole new application including all of the types of relief they would need.

ZBA member Chip Tarbell detailed the specific issues with the application as he saw them.

The first was the density issue. Tarbell pointed out that the applicable zoning allows one unit per 750 square feet of lot size. With a lot size of 9,880 square feet, that would allow only 13 units, not the 20 requested. No relief from this requirement had been requested.

The application listed 20 off-street parking spaces, but Tarbell pointed out that the bylaw requires 1.5 parking spaces per unit, or 30 spaces. Again, no relief had been requested for parking.

Tarbell also noted that setbacks of 30 feet all around the proposed building are required or a distance equal to the height of the building, whichever is greater. A building height of 58 feet was requested, but no relief from the setback requirements was sought in the application.

Attorney Jack said that he was under the impression that the additional relief would be part of the process with the ZBA, but Tarbell pointed out that the applicant still has to apply for the relief.

Board member Jim McBain said that it was unfair to abutters and neighbors to come in without applying for all the necessary relief because it means that neighbors would not have gotten full notice of everything being sought.

Tarbell suggested that Jack and his client, Johnson, should probably withdraw their application and re-file with all the necessary relief listed. He noted that the responsibility was on the applicant to determine the kinds of relief he needed and make the proper applications.

ZBA member Tom Lucey agreed that the best option would be to withdraw and come back later with a more complete application.

Tarbell cautioned that if they come back seeking the same number of units (20) they would have trouble getting the project approved. Board member Ami Wall agreed that the current application was “a non-starter.”

ZBA members suggested to Jack and his client that they may want to meet with neighbors and hear their concerns prior to coming back before the board.

Johnson said that he would withdraw his current application and look for feedback prior to re-applying.

When it came time for public testimony, Hatfield warned the large crowd in attendance that since the current project was being withdrawn, the board would not be taking comments on the project itself, but would answer questions regarding procedure.

James Engelbrecht of 175 North Ave. and Paula DeSisto of 30 Richardson Ave. asked if they could provide written testimony. Tarbell reminded them that the application had been withdrawn and at this point no proposal existed.

“It’s like it never happened,” Tarbell said. Still, the board accepted the written comments on the withdrawn application.

Deborah Fox of Alyssa Drive questioned how the ZBA applies the Zoning Bylaws, suggesting that the board gives out too many “waivers” for building projects.

Board members said that the hearing was not the proper forum for that discussion and recommended that she take her concerns to the Bylaw Review Committee or the Town Council.

After some further discussion, the board voted to accept Johnson’s request to withdraw without prejudice his application related to 33 West Water Street. He will be able to file a new application at a later date.

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