Zoning Board of Appeals - Jun 23rd, 2020

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Docket 3622: 46--48 Park Ave Extension. Petitioner shares a driveway with their abutter at 50 Park Ave Extension. They're requesting approval to construct new driveway on the south side of their property, to alleviate parking congestion caused by a single driveway that's shared by three residences.

The south side of the house is 11' away from the property line. The minimum width of a driveway is 7.5'.

The abutter at 50 Park Avenue Extension acknowledges the parking challenges. He has no objections to a separate driveway for 46--48.

The tenant at 46 Park Ave Extension feels that it's dangerous to back out of the existing driveway. The tenant supports the proposal for an additional driveway.

There's a retaining wall on the south side of the house, next to where the new driveway is intended to go. The board has questions about whose property the retaining wall is on, and whether grading for the new driveway might impact its structural integrity.

The board would like to receive more information before making a decision, including plans that that show how the new driveway will be constructed.

Hearing continued.

Docket 3623: 37 Fairmont. The petitioner would like to add a 200 square foot addition in the rear of a non-conforming single-family house. Property is pre-existing non-conforming with respect to usable open space.

Approved, 5--0.

Docket 3627: 73 Freeman. Petitioner seeks to add a dormer to a non-conforming two-family structure.

There's discussion about the ceiling height in the third floor, and whether the proposed alterations would conform to our ZBL's definition of "half story". The alterations would conform.

Approved, 5--0.

Docket 3626: 66--68 Palmer street. Petitioner intends to renovate an non-conforming two-family home, including the addition of a dormer.

There's discussion about the dormer, the amount of area under the dormer, the engineering of the roof ridge, the roofing material to be used, and the basement GFA.

Approved, 5--0.

Docket 3621: 339 Massachusetts Ave. Petitioner would like to add a garage to an office building in the R6 district. They applied for a building permit; inspectional services issued a stop work order when they realized the proposed garage did not conform to the current zoning bylaw. Petitioner is seeking an appeal of the building inspector's decision (for the stop work order).

There are questions about geothermal wells that currently exist on the property, and how the two-story garage will be used. The petitioner states that the wells will not be disturbed. The second floor will be used for storing materials like shipping supplies; it will be accessed via stairs.

Chris Loretti addresses the board. He claims the hearing wasn't properly advertised. He's heard the board mention opinion letters from the planning department and asks why those letters weren't included in the docket materials. He's astounded that the board doesn't have the final plans for this project, and believes the application packet is grossly incomplete. He doesn't believe that Mr. Valarelli (former building inspector and current ZBA administrator) should be allowed to participate in the hearing.

Mr. Loretti asks who was representing the petitioner as counsel, and when. There's back and forth about this.

Mr. Loretti claims the proposed garage should be subject to the good neighbor agreement. He says the building isn't a garage, because flex space isn't allowed in garages. He states that the proposed property doesn't come close to meeting the criteria for a variance. He feels the flex space should create additional parking requirements, and that this docket should be heard by the ARB rather than the ZBA. He believes it will not be expensive for the petitioner to re-do the footings they've poured.

Mr. Valarelli acknowledges that the building department made a mistake in issuing the building permit for the garage. He states that the petitioner has two options: to change plans, or to appeal before the ZBA for relief. The petitioner has chosen to do the latter.

A woman named Lori owns a building diagonally across from the petitioner's property. She doesn't live there, but rents it out. She states that the street contains a mix of homeowners and renters, and that renters were not notified of this special permit hearing. She says the business at 339 Mass Ave uses way too much marking. She states that the business does substance abuse treatment, and there are people getting drunk and doing drug deals near the property. The two-story garage will completely change the neighborhood, and she's completely against it.

Bob Bowes owns the abutting property across the street. He's met with the business owner at 339 Mass Ave and has no concerns with the proposed garage. The thinks the applicant is an innocent victim (of the building department's mistake). He has no objections to the garage.

Don Seltzer asks how many people work at the petitioner's practice.

The building is the company headquarters. Executives and call center personnel work there. The company doesn't do substance abuse treatment on site.

Mr. Seltzer asks if any doctors work on the premises.

No, the company has been making a concerted effort to switch to tele-medicine, even before the COVID-19 emergency began.

Mr. Seltzer has a lot of questions about dates when things happened, and when various documents were issued and signed. There's a lot of back and fourth about this.

Mr. Seltzer states that the rainwater from the roof of the building will flow down the driveway. He claims this will flood Mr. Bowes property across the street.

Chris Loretti claims that parking was always a big issue at this location, and that the garage will reduce the number of parking spaces available.

There's a discussion among members of the board. The board believes that the garage doesn't conform to the current zoning bylaw, and that inspectional services did the right thing by issuing a stop work order. There are questions (among board members) about whether equitable relief could be available, and if so, what form it might take.

Hearing continued, and the stop work order remains in effect.

Docket 3624: 400--402 Mass Ave. The petitioner requests an amendment to a 1980 special permit decision that limited the property to two residential apartments. The building currently has three office suites and two apartments. The petitioner would like to convert two of the office suites to apartments. Removing the 1980 limitation would allow the petitioner to seek an EDR permit from the ARB.

Per planning department memo, the building could be treated as mixed use. The ZBA doesn't have the authority to issue permits for mixed use construction. The question before us is whether to modify the 1980 special permit (which was issued by the ZBA), so that the petitioner can apply to the ARB.

All of the work will be done in the building interior. The building exterior will not change.

Don Seltzer doesn't see any reason why the ZBA should allow four apartments in this building. He feels that four apartments would be out of character with the neighborhood, and that six parking spaces will not be enough.

Chris Loretti is confused about what the ZBA vs ARB is doing. He believes that four units will constitute an apartment building, which isn't allowed in a B1 district. He suggests the ZBA allow the ARB to modify the proposal.

Aram Hollman is an abutter who has several concerns. The first is parking. He's concerned about tandem parking, and doesn't think it's reasonable. He states that parking is supposed to be safe and the parking proposed here will not be safe enough. He asks ``what about snow? He claims that residents will have guests, and those guests will park on Whittemore and Avon streets. He says the town needs more businesses, and thinks transportation demand management would be a gross abuse. He claims the ZBA is giving the landlord an opportunity to jack up rents. He feels the application is complete, and that the numbers on the dimensional worksheets don't make sense to him. He says that one office will be a token gesture of commercial space.

Board approves modification of the 1980 special permit conditions.