by David Dahlbacka in Beat Reporter, Development and Zoning, Environment and Open Space, Neighborhoods and Squares, Pedestrians, Public Health & Safety, Traffic & Parking
Posted on May 16, 2010 at 7:07 pm
This Planning Board meeting included continuing hearings on 79-83 Broadway (slightly controversial), 39R Medford St., and 1 Benton Rd. (also controversial). There was also a discussion of declaring properties part of historical districts, sometimes controversial.
79-83 Broadway (Mudflat Studio): Located between Cross Street and the Mt. Vernon Restaurant. Plan to extend 2nd floor of erstwhile vacant building to use as art classrooms. Issue started early 2000′s. Joe Favalaro said he would find payment in lieu of parking unacceptable. Originally found 6 spaces to rent nearby. Now requires 13 spaces due to extension. Could: (1) get variance; (2) create transportation management plan; (3) make payment in lieu of parking per new ordinance. City accumulates money, creates shared parking lot.
Payment in lieu of parking is new to Planning Board; they need to work with Mudflat to mitigate parking issue. Could be a one-time payment, divided by cost of creating a specified # of spaces. Planning staff recommended conditional approval provided Mudflat got parking relief from ZBA. Note that use is allowed by right; parking is only concern.
COMMENT: Planning Board member did not seem aware that payment in lieu of parking was allowed by new ordinance.
39R Medford St.: Installing fuel tank for self-contained backup generator for wireless facility. Planned to be in rear near dumpster, 11.5 ft from property line. Staff recommended conditional approval with conditions including that there were acoustic measurements within 6 months of installation and annually thereafter.
1 Benton Rd: Desmond and White present and opposed. DiGirolamo cited case of Prudential versus Emerson. Somerville 1993 exempted from state subdivision act. Ability to split properties granted administratively unless Planning Board requires review. Staff uncomfortable, proposed making conditions. Law department said no clear path to denial. Key issue seemed to be safety of Summer St. driveway. Traffic study cited difficulty turning east. Traffic study only 4-6 PM, not 7-9 AM when nearby school has children present. Does not address new school. Traffic study based on only 3 units, not 6 units as now proposed. Will be 6 trips/unit.
DiGirolamo reopened record to suggest parking restrictions near corner. White said should not further restrict parking to accommodate developer. Desmond asked if study took into account blinding sun eastbound in the morning when children present. Member of public stated were 240 students at St. Catherine of Genoa school, 3 years to 8th grade. New school 40 more children, 3-5 years old.
One of developers, Mitchell, said he’d asked Tom Taylor for a curb cut on Benton, that it wasn’t their intention to mislead anyone about the second development. Bill W. said record should not include hearsay about what Tom Taylor said because he is not present to rebut.
The Prudential case sets the precedent that a subdivision can only be denied if:
1. Developer doesn’t supply information requested.
2. Reasonable conditions are required that can’t be met. (Could create condition on traffic.)
3. Development so intrusive on neighborhood it can’t be mitigated. (Generally reversed on appeal.)
White suggested that conditions include Summer St. driveway not be used due to safety concerns. Could also try to get Department of Public Works to revoke Summer St. curb cut.
Hearing recessed until public hearing May 20.
COMMENT: Despite widespread opposition, this appears to be hard to stop. The burden of proof seems to be on the city to deny a subdivision request. The ordinance may need to be changed. We have too many houses already; subdividing should not be made too easy by allowing permission to be granted administratively.
After hearing, Planning Board discussion on historic districts. Most districts elsewhere are whole streets, more than 1 property. Here properties are scattered, must do cherry-picking. About 100 lots in historic districts. Group A in process, Group B (Somerville before 1865) has 171 properties. Board of Aldermen can force lots into historic districts. General discomfort with practice on Board because of possible resentment, though courts say cherry-picking acceptable. One owner wanted to be a historic district, wanted also to expand B&B on property. Others (such as 1 Benton Rd.) refuse and then remodel.
Issue left that Planning Board would approve the new group, with a recommendation that the Board of Aldermen investigate cases where the property owner is opposed to being included in the district.