The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted Everett developer Greg Antonelli variances allowing for the construction of a modern, four-story building with 18 apartment units and retail space on the first floor at 605 Broadway.
But that vote ended up being more of a sideshow to the main event of the hearing, a nearly 15-minute interlude in which Mayor Carlo DeMaria and ZBA Chair Joseph DeSisto debated the mayor’s vision for the City versus the ZBA’s role in addressing zoning laws as they currently stand.
It’s a confrontation that had been in the making for months, as DeSisto had openly questioned the mayor’s goals at several previous meetings.
Antonelli’s plan getting the go-ahead by the ZBA is at least the third iteration of the proposed project for the large home that was the former office of Dr. Al Mavilio.
Last year, Antonelli came forward with a proposal for knocking down the house and building 21 one- and two-bedroom units. After concerns were voiced about the size of the project, the developer agreed to scale it back by a handful of units.
And that could have been the end of the story, as Antonelli was issued a permit to build a four-story, 18-unit apartment building with 18 parking spaces on the ground level of the development.
At this point, DeMaria and his administration got involved, according to Antonelli.
“The City reached out to me about a mixed-use development and wanted me to reconsider the design,” he said. That new plan kept the 18 units, but knocked out the parking on the first level and replaced it with just over 1,200 feet of retail space.
That latest plan initially came before the ZBA about a month ago. Monday night, Antonelli presented three options for the board — moving ahead with the originally approved 18 units with the “podium style” parking on the ground level, the 18 units with retail and no parking (as eventually approved by the ZBA Monday night), or a smaller building with 13 units and no parking.
Antonelli admitted that the biggest question facing the project was if any developer would be allowed to put up a building with zero parking included.
“If the City has a vision to allow a developer to build on Broadway, Main Street, or Ferry Street with no parking, that would be in a direct violation to the zoning bylaws,” said DeSisto.
To help clarify some of the issues over how the 605 Broadway proposal would fit into the administration’s vision of the city, ZBA member Michael Dantone invited DeMaria and Director of Planning Tony Sousa to talk to the board about that vision.
This led to several mildly heated exchanges between the board’s chairman and the mayor.
DeMaria said his big picture for the city is a greater reliance on public transportation, bike-sharing, and other initiatives such as the City’s dedicated bus lane that would take more cars off the road. Both the mayor and Sousa noted that the administration is working on proposed zoning changes in Everett Square that would encourage mixed-use development and loosen parking requirements.
“I don’t want to see the approval of podium-style parking or more parking spaces in backyards,” said DeMaria.
But DeSisto said the mayor’s vision for the future was not entirely applicable to the issue at hand.
“You can talk all you want about your vision, but these five people voting (on the ZBA) are not voting on your vision, they are voting on the existing law,” he said.
DeSisto said the mayor may have a vision and that there could be zoning changes in the works, but that the city council could say no to any proposed changes.
“You have a vision of what you want the city to look like, but you are asking the board to vote on possible changes,” he said.
During the meeting, several neighbors said they were still concerned that the project would lead to parking issues, even with Antonelli’s descriptions of a world of Millennials who rely on ride-sharing services and public transportation and are not likely to have cars.
DeSisto was the one board member who voted against granting the variance for the 18 unit, plus retail, project.
The retail component of the project will most likely be a boutique-type coffee shop or bistro, according to Antonelli.
To help allay some of the parking concerns, the ZBA did add the condition that no tenants in the building would be eligible for City parking stickers. DeSisto and some of the neighbors noted that there could be problems with potential tenants trying to sneak parking on side streets near Broadway.
As for any potential ongoing tension between DeMaria and DeSisto?
“It seems like maybe you are not listening to what I am saying, but I truly love you,” the mayor said the ZBA chairman at one point during the debate.