The Everett Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met on Monday and approved the renovation of a Ferry Street rooming house that will convert the building into 19 individual apartments and discard the rooming house format.
In what was highly anticipated since last year, when the ZBA took a negative view of the owner’s previous plan, Andrew Philbin appeared with Attorney Paul Delory to pitch the plan to the Board – but this time as a renovation and not a total demolition.
The sticking point had been the lack of parking, as many members like the plan and like the retirement of the rooming house/shared bathroom concept. However, no parking had been provided.
That didn’t change on Monday, as there were two spaces provided for ZipCars, and no parking for potential residents of the 15 studios and four one-bedroom micro units.
“In this city, everything is parking and you’re giving me zero,” said Member Michael Dantone. “It requires 38 spaces and you’ve giving me zero. I don’t have anything to work with. I love the plan, but you have no parking…I understand the argument about having no cars, but I don’t believe you when you tell me they won’t bring cars to this project despite what you tell me about public transportation.”
This time, though, the ZBA was in a corner with the parking argument due to the fact that it was a renovation and not a complete reconstruction. The burden of proof was that it couldn’t be “substantially more detrimental” than the existing structure. So, since the building has no parking now, and wouldn’t have any parking later, nothing was made worse.
“You can’t get away from what was there,” said Delory. “This is the same or less detrimental, not substantially more.”
It was an argument that seemed to make sense to the rest of the Board, and Chair Joe DeSisto indicated that the parking situation wasn’t the same as last summer when they needed 38 spots and had none. New construction in that district requires two spots per unit.
Delory said the Philbin family went to great expense to redesign the new building within its current footprint.
They plan to excavate the basement to put in four new units – all with their own bathrooms. The building would have a third floor added to it, and there would be five units on each of those three floors. Most of the units are studios and range from 280 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft.
“These aren’t the type of units that are going to impact the schools because they only can really fit one person,” he said.
There would also be a new elevator installed, and the whole building would be brought up to code. The building has been vacant for more than one year.
Delory said they plan to charge around $1,100 per month on average, and they expect to get young professional people who want to use the new dedicated bus lane to get into Boston quickly.
Ward 6 Councilor Michael McLaughlin spoke in favor of the project, as did Ward 4 Councilor Leo McKinnon.
“This is the future and where I hope to see the City go,” said McLaughlin.
Councilor at-Large Wayne Matewsky said he believes more projects need to come online like this to help keep people here.
“There are people who want to live in Everett and everything is full,” he said. “There are retired people too, not just young professionals…This is convenient for people who don’t want to have to maintain a home any longer.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria was thought to be primed to comment on the project, but he did not in the end. He has said in the past that he doesn’t mind the project and believes that development without cars in mind is the future of Everett.
The was no opposition from the public this time around.
The ZBA voted 4-1 to approve, with Dantone voted against.
- In a controversial conversion on Linden Street that upset abutters, the ZBA approved Tomasso Lanza’s petition to make a six-family into an eight-family building.
While several folks spoke in favor of the project, a group of abutters were adamantly against the conversion, as they were uncertain how Lanza planned to make a 15-car parking lot in the back yard – where six cars are now.
On top of that, they indicated he hasn’t been a good neighbor to them.
“I don’t know how he gets nine more cars in there,” said Robert Cogliano. “We’ve had it on our street.”
Michael Hanson said it will set a precedent where other multi-family homes will also convert to larger buildings, which will only make parking and traffic worse.
Attorney Paul Delory said some neighbors who are complaining have asked for zoning relief in the past, including to build homes in their back yards.
“You have to be careful what you do when you say this is the problem and you’ve benefitted from zoning relief in the past,” he said.
In the end, the ZBA was boxed in a corner once again on the issue.
They voted 4-1 to approved, with Dantone opposing.
- The ZBA voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve a new cigar shop on Lower Broadway in the old barber shop. Joe Bono, of Al Dente Restaurant in the North End, indicated that he is bringing in Francine Wu of Boston to operate the smoke shop, which will sell cigars, hookah and other smoking accessories.
Councilors Wayne Matewsky and Michael McLaughlin spoke in favor of the matter.
- The ZBA approved a variance for an electronic sign (6’ x 10’) accessory sign for the Owens Commerce Center on Garden Street. The old sign is wooden and only lit with traditional lights. Some of the newer tenants, including Huntington Theatre Company’s Scene Shop, were looking to have more of a presence on the sign.
It was approved 5-0.
- The owner of 27 Wolcott St. had a business petition withdrawn without prejudice and scrapped the plan to put an esthetician business in the property.
“I came here ready to argue for what a great addition it would be, but I don’t want to go into that now,” he said. “I’m looking at $40,000 or $50,000 I didn’t even know I had to deal with.”