Zoning Board Not Buying the ‘No Car’ Concept on Ferry Street

By Seth Daniel

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) remained rather skeptical of a proposal by Andrew Philbin to convert a 20-room lodging house into a brand new apartment building with 20 micro units, but only two parking spots – something that is becoming more and more common as developers lean on the trend of the car-less household.

The application required 40 spots by the zoning code, so it was deficient a total of 38 spaces – among other pieces of relief requested for the building at 324 Ferry St. in Glendale Square.

In the end, the ZBA agreed to let the Philbins have a few months to resolve the parking conundrum, and then come back to the Board.

“This is a lot of relief requested for one property, but the parking issue stands out to me,” said member Mike Dantone. “Saying you will rent to people who don’t have cars is a big assumption. You get a couple cars there and it’s a disaster. I love the building and I love the project, but you are offerings two spots. This requires 40 spots and so you’re not even close…You’re stuffing a very big building in a very small area. You’re asking for trouble. I’ve never been on this Board and seen a project where 38 of the 40 spots are missing. That’s the biggest number I’ve seen (missing) for a building this size.”

Chairman Joe DeSisto said he also liked the project, but found that the parking situation was hard to look past – even with the assurances by the Philbins that the project was intended for single people or young couples that do not want to own a vehicle.

“I like the idea of upgrading that building and I like the idea of removing a rooming house type of situation,” he said. “Rather than totally rejecting it, maybe they would be willing to explore new alternatives.”

He said he would prefer that the owners look into a situation such as happened several years ago nearby by Oliveira’s Restaurant – where the owner there eventually purchased an abutting home and demolished it to provide a parking lot.

“I would only be too willing to look at these kinds of alternatives,” said the elder Andrew Philbin.

Attorney Paul DeLory introduced the project at Monday night’s meeting in City Hall, and said that the plan included demolishing the current building and constructing a brand new, modern building on the same footprint – though it would be denser and about 10 feet taller.

The new building would contain 20 micro unit apartments (about 400 sq. ft.) and would have their own baths and kitchenettes in each unit. Currently, the units have shared baths and kitchen facilities, and also have units that are non-conforming in the basement of the structure.

The Philbins changed it from a four-family to a 20-room lodging house in 1997.

“There are actually rooms in the basement now,” he said. “The new plan actually raises the building so there are no units in the basement…All the units will now start on the ground floor.”

DeLory and the Philbins said they are exploring a Zip Car situation at the building, and the younger Andrew Philbin – an Everett firefighter – said their recently renovated building on Chelsea Street has worked out to where the renters nearly all have no vehicle.

“The building style and trend is for people who don’t have vehicles and want to rely on public transportation,” said DeLory. “You’re not going to get a family there. The trend right now in the city is moving away from the car. The person who will be renting these doesn’t want a car. They’re trying to get away from car ownership.”

They cited that the building is right on the new dedicated bus lane, and that people who use that bus to get quickly into Boston in the morning would be prime candidates for their building.

The argument was understood, but a majority of the ZBA seemed to agree that Everett might not yet be at the point where a building with no parking was sustainable for the neighborhood.

Two neighbors from Blanchard Street did appear and testify, with deep concerns about the parking.

The Philbins said they now get about $600 per room now, and expected to get around $1,200 per unit in the new building.

The ZBA gave them until the Sept. 18 meeting to return with some alternatives for parking. At that time, the rest of the relief, which is also significant, would also be considered.

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