Present: Elizabeth Maroney, James Kirylo, Joseph Favaloro, Michael Capuano, Dana LeWinter, planning staff.
299 Broadway (Ocean State Job Lot). Tenancy requiring 4 variances, including change of use from Grocery Store to Large Retail. Case postponed to either August 5 or August 19 meetings.
[COMMENT: Walter Pero hung around a while to let people know that 299 Broadway had been postponed. A new developer's public meeting is planned, probably August 17. No more than a half-dozen people showed up to hearing, most well after 6:00 PM. Note that the hearing had been scheduled at 6:00 PM. If it had not been postponed, latecomers would have been too late to be heard.]
90 Hudson Street. Request to extend existing dormer by 7 feet. Granted unanimously with conditions involving fire prevention gear and notifying Inspectional Services 5 days in advance.
One Benton Road. Project to subdivide existing lot, double number of units to 6. New traffic study (5/3/10) was presented alleging no safety problem existed. Submission reopened public comment on new info. Crash rate calculated as half state average. Voluntary changes proposed:
* Trim or remove hedges at corner of Benton Road.
* Move stop line closer to Summer Street (is now 19 feet away).
* Improve warning signs east and westbound (replace with increased reflectivity signs).
* Traffic study may be invalid because didn’t take into account effect of Somerville Ave. upgrades on Summer St. traffic. Traffic consultant said more traffic on Summer would reduce rate if the accident count stayed the same.
* Removing greenery might be a problem. Could be OK if lowered greenery.
* Should find out why stop line is so far from Summer Street. [COMMENT: could be a bus route goes through there.]
* I queried if Traffic Impact Assessment mentioned eastbound sunrise blinding issue. Traffic consultant said if there were, there’d be more accidents in the morning.
[COMMENT: I looked at Traffic Impact Assessment on Planning Board Decisions site. No mention of sunrise/sunset one way or the other. No mention of new nearby school either. Did mention 20 MPH school zone crossing a short distance to the west.]
On August 5, hearing to be reopened. Executive Session to be scheduled to deal with litigation strategy on One Benton Road. Rule is P.B. members can only miss 1 meeting, after that ineligible to vote on issue. Difficulty getting all people there at same time. Statutory time for a vote is ~60 days after comment close. Likely applicant reopening comment to provide new traffic study will have reset clock, will check with city solicitor. Can’t discuss issues via e-mail, but can discuss scheduling via e-mail.
67 Florence St. Original plan to demolish 2-family house, build 6-family building on 10 K s.f. lot. Could do 3 units as of right. Original building then received historic site designation. Historic Preservation Commission said keep 2-family building on lot, construct rest of units around original. Applicant said couldn’t afford to rehab old building and build new building unless had 2 units in original building and added 5 in new building, total 7 (1 affordable). Applicant willing to design new building to resemble historic building. All units are 2-bedroom rental units.
* Different from One Benton Road because at One Benton Road, P.B. can only deal with subdivision issue. Has historic designation so P.B. has more discretion. This neighborhood very different from One Benton Road, are lot of 6 family, 2 family homes. Design would validate neighborhood, fill in gap in streetscape.
* Would like a 4-unit building instead of 5. Applicant said not economically feasible because of cost to rehab historic building.
* Don’t like density. Developers always max out number of units, may get flood of 8 unit developments. Just because Somerville has always done 4-units doesn’t mean it should keep on doing it. Planning staff said was no neighborhood opposition. Developer had meeting with neighbors, discussion of options helped refine design.
* Does this meet 3 criteria for a variance? Public good received: rehab of historic house, affordable housing unit. Need to see developer’s financials. Planning Staff saw them, seem OK but can’t testify to accuracy of data.
3 members (Capuano, Kirylo, Favaloro) concerned about number of units. Proposed smaller development, applicant said couldn’t afford. No consensus, chair split issue into multiple votes. Results:
* Variance for 7 units DENIED unanimously based on density.
* Special permit for 2 structures on same lot ACCEPTED 4-1.
* Variance to allow 6 units total DENIED 3-2.
Applicant can go to ZBA or return with smaller project.
[COMMENT: "3 variance criteria" apparently refers to Somerville zoning section 5.5.3: (a) substantial hardship, (b) minimum relief to owners, (c) not injurious to neighborhood or detrimental to public welfare (for example, too many units).]
16 Browning Road. William White wants a variance to increase an 8-foot fence to 10 feet (as high as can legally go). Staff recommended against allowing it. Story is, White bought new house, loud TV next door late at night. Used A/C and kept windows shut at first, then went to ZBA for approval of 8 foot fence, which recently fell down. Wasn’t adequate, was line of sight from open door to bedroom window.
* Noise ordinance? White said doesn’t apply (noise not 75 dB). Is 4-5 tenants up late.
* Call police at 11 PM? White said is transient housing, different people. May not be adequate ventilation in their house. Other neighbors may not want to be in the middle of dispute.
* Opposition from neighbors? White said no.
* What if fence doesn’t work? White said he did due diligence. Will get 15 year fence. Wood doesn’t block sound well by itself, so will install sound deadening material. Need to go high enough to break line of sight.
Vote: Unanimous in favor. White to go to ZBA to complete process.
[COMMENT: P.B. evidently concluded 3 variance criteria met: (a) substantial hardship (can't sleep); (b) minimum relief (not asking for 20-foot fence) (c) not injurious to neighborhood (no opposition).]
Historic Group C Designation. Groups A & B designated already by BOA. Were public hearings, historical commission and legislative matters committee. All approved except 5-6 people who balked (including owner of house built in 1790). Holdouts being talked to by aldermen. Director of Planning Monica Lamboy testified.
* Mahoney and Kirylo concerned with people being singled out. One house designated historic, one nearby is not. Can’t it be whole ward?
* Kirylo opposed to owners being overridden. Prefers to allow owners to apply. Believes this done in Cambridge.
* LeWinter doesn’t like grouping by time period. Wants to see a map by district or ward. Lamboy stated were too many properties to hold hearings at same time. Wanted to paint picture of Somerville history. Have GIS maps. Properties are usually not contiguous. Will consolidate into multihouse districts as done on Appleton and Morrison.
* How done in other places? Is it normal to override homeowner or pull properties chronologically? Extreme case is Nantucket, need approval for everything. Lamboy said state law doesn’t allow opt in/opt out; designation is policy decision by BOA. Is no obligation to change the property after designation. If owner wants to make change visible from outside, must present to planning staff for approval. Replacing in-kind (same kind of window, door, etc.) is signed off administratively. Substantive changes require approval. Still grappling with what to do about energy-efficient windows.
Voted unanimously to approve Group C with usual understanding that a person who wants to opt out should say so and BOA is to investigate the case and decide.