Attended Planning Board meeting 4/15/10. About 12 citizens attending. Printed agenda marked “Modified”.
IKEA Permit. Brief hearing on voiding original IKEA permit for a waterside store. City legal staff had asked IKEA to make request because there were two IKEA permits, one for the waterside store and one for the inland store after the land swap. No opposition. (Afterwards, Monica Lamboy chided me for not cheering, because voiding the permit means that the waterside IKEA project is dead, dead, dead. [The inland store is still alive.])
MaxPac plan changes. Hearing advertised in Somerville News 3/31 and 4/7. Major change in residential development to add a storage basement instead of raising the ground level with fill. Citizens generally spoke in favor, but one concern was people converting the basement to a basement bedroom. Condition added to allow no bedrooms in basement space, to be included in condo agreements and in zoning permit. Another condition, in response to a concern, was that construction must start after 9 AM. Applicant cited time constraint on financing, so P.B. moved forward immediately with no written comment period.
1 Benton Road. Summer street near Central Street. Controversial. Lot now holds 3 new condos in originally historical building, $520K to $740K price range. Developer says lot is 2nd or 3rd largest in city, is surrounded by smaller lots, wants to split lot and do 2nd 3 condo development as of right.
P.B. members spoke in opposition, none in favor. Cumulative points included: (1) 6 condo single development would require 1 be affordable. Two 3 condo developments wouldn’t. (2) Somerville is already crowded, additional developments won’t help. (3) Extra city services required nullify additional tax base. (4) Increased traffic near crowded intersection. (5) Documentation only has lawyers’ name (DiGirolamo) on them. (6) Other problems: taxes, city services, drainage.
Aldermen (Connolly, White, Taylor, Gewirtz) spoke in opposition. Ald. Connolly stated development was out of character; just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Ald. White amplified P.B. points. Taylor stated the site should have been designated historical and there is already overdevelopment in RA and RB neighborhoods. Taylor said he had heard from developer over a dozen times around Christmas about a curb cut and supported it, not realizing a second development was involved. (Developer Lombardi later alleged he had told Taylor about the second development. Taylor spoke sharply in rebuttal, shut down by Chair Elizabeth Moroney.)
Other points: if subdivided, P.B. loses control of development. 77% of Somerville is already hard top.
1 citizen, a real-estate professional involved with the project, spoke in favor of it on the basis of high residential tax bills and increased tax base. Many citizens spoke against it, citing historical status of neighborhoods, excess density, traffic. I spoke against it specifically about tax base, on the grounds that Somerville has too much residential development already and more is a drag on city services. We need commercial development instead.
A formal opinion will be sought on P.B. power to regulate subdivisions. Extensive discussion required.
Written comment period open until Friday April 30.
119 College Avenue. Ald. Gewirtz advocating for tenants in opposition to additional antennas on building. Earlier, antennas had had to be redirected because originally pointed into apartment. Issues: microwave radiation, noise of equipment A/C, unsightly rooftops (many false chimneys). P.B. pointed out that FCC regulations override local ordinances. I suggested to Ald. Gewirtz that P.B. require RF power measurements in actual apartment; she said P.B. wouldn’t do it. Telecom company offered an affidavit of safety. Ald. Gewirtz asked for city review.
City generally supports antennas, solicits them on city property for the income, including on senior buildings.
Recommending approval with conditions: (1) Telecom to measure RF power within 2 months, then yearly. (2) Get affidavit of safety (power not radiated directly into room), city to review. (2) Ensure compliance with city noise ordinance. (3) Unused antannas to be designated abandoned and removed.
Permit Streamlining. Currently staff recommendations for permits have to go to Planning Board before going on to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Want to send staff recommendations directly to ZBA. Why require two meetings? Increased planning staff efficiency, frees up time for new zoming. Requires new ordinance, with public hearing.
Elizabeth Moroney remarked on my sticking to the end of the meeting, after everyone else had left. (Another had remarked, “What’s this stuck at the end of the agenda?”) I said, “I’m just hanging out here.”
I will post a link to the minutes when they are available.