Commercial Triangle Zoning Passes Council, at Long Last

The City Council unanimously passed the long-awaited Commercial Triangle Zoning District ordinance on Monday, setting the table for what will likely be the complete remaking of the south side of the Parkway from heavy industrial to a trendy mixed-use village.

The Triangle, which is a 97-acre patch roughly bounded by Everett Avenue, the train tracks and the Parkway, was subject to a Master Plan process in 2015 and 2016, clueing everyone in on what will be coming. However, to the frustration of many on the Planning Board and Zoning Board, and to some developers, the zoning package was never brought to the Council. In June, it passed muster with the Planning Board, and then after a mandatory 30-day wait, it was presented to the Council.

“We are encouraging high density,” said Building Commissioner Jim Soper. “We aren’t looking for a lot of 5,000 sq. ft. We don’t want to see the small buildings. If you have a 5,000 sq. ft. lot, you should have six units…What will happen, we hope, is these small lots will be consolidated, bought up by investors, and a bigger thing can then happen – perhaps by right.”

The biggest change – among a host of big changes – is the downplaying of industrial uses, making many of them prohibited by zoning and requiring permitting to change or alter them. Any existing industrial uses would be grandfathered and allowed, but changing them or expanding them would be much more difficult than before.

What will be encouraged is mixed-use developments of 50 units or more.

Anything containing a retail component with the proper square footage and more than 50 units would now be allowed by right, only needing to go through a Site Plan Review with the Planning Board.

“We see a little village starting to grow on that south side where people live, where they go to restaurants and research and development labs provide them jobs,” Soper said.

City Planner Tony Sousa said another ‘by-right’ feature of the district includes allowing business offices, banks, financial services, research/development facilities, retail services, and inside entertainment/recreation that are 15,000 sq. ft. or less. They said an example of that size would be half of the Best Buy store on Santilli Circle.

Special Permits would be granted for other uses like multi-family developments without retail (50 units per acre minimum), hotels, restaurants/fast food, and any of the above mentioned uses that are more than 15,000 sq. ft.

Another use allowed by Special Permit is a parking facility.

Some prohibited uses would be:  adult entertainment, self-storage, warehouses, truck terminals, fuel stations, auto repair, auto parts distribution/sales, scrap yards, outside manufacturing, smoke shops, tattoo/piercing parlors, gun shops, motels, pawn brokers, mobile homes, check cashers, billboards and animal slaughter houses.

Building heights would be allowed by right up to 65 feet, but a Special Permit would be needed for anything 66 to 100 feet tall. Nothing over 100 feet would be permitted.

Parking would be governed by existing standards (two spaces per unit in most sections), but one exception would be for studio units that would have 0.5 spaces per studio.

Most councilors were glad to have the proposal before them for a vote, and there was little discussion about the Commercial Triangle piece, though it was noted by most that it will be the beginning of a huge transformation in the area over the next decade.

The Council voted 9-0 to approve, and is expected to ordain it at their next meeting.

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