By Seth Daniel
The Wood Waste owners on Vale and East Elm Streets will seek variances at the Board of Appeals on Monday, Aug. 15, to develop 660 units of apartments in four buildings on the once-controversial, but massive, construction debris yard site.
Attorney Anthony Rossi is representing the project and said they have a decision to make and have to make it quickly. They are seeking variances for the residential use in the Industrial Limited District and a major variance for parking, but the flip side would be to likely get rid of what is an undesirable use, a construction materials transfer station, in an area that is quickly becoming one of the hottest residential development corridors north of Boston.
“We either redevelop the site or we have to build a permanent building (for the transfer station) and that will mean it will be stuck as a transfer station,” said Rossi. “It’s a $5 million building we have to build and it’s all permitted…We want to move forward and we told the City we could work with them and we are…Everett wants us to see about doing this and so we’re pushing forward.
“Once we build the building, we’re done,” he continued. “You’re not going to walk away from a $5 million building. The City and state have been great because they’re interested in seeing something happen at the site. There is an opportunity to develop and we have a very short window to get this done.”
The proposal would be cobbled together on several acres land, about four times the size of the Harley dealership next door that was recently approved by the zoning board for 284 units. It would be cleaned up environmentally completely, Rossi said, and would mean Wood Waste would move to another location either in Everett or outside of Everett.
Wood Waste and its owner, Billy Thibeau, long battled the City and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over debris piles that were too tall and other environmental issues. However, in recent years the controversial facility has been cleaned up substantially and the controversy has been much less. That said, there is still a DEP order for Wood Waste to build a permanent building on the site. The company erected a temporary facility some years ago to keep down dust and debris, but the DEP has been pushing for the permanent structure to go up some time this year, perhaps even by the fall.
Those battles, however, happened long before anyone ever thought that the south side of the Parkway would be hot property for luxury apartment buildings. Now, the Harley site has luxury apartments slated for it, and there is a boutique hotel under construction across the street as well. Many of the other properties also have significant interest – driven by the casino prospects on Lower Broadway and the new Silver Line station in Chelsea’s Market Basket Mall.
Similarly, Wood Waste earlier this year permitted a 700-plus unit development on its Chelsea property – just over the Everett line – and over to where Chelsea Clock used to be. That permitted project was sold this spring to Fairfield Development of San Diego.
City officials said the area has changed and it makes sense to look at such a development for Wood Waste, but they don’t want to be hasty.
“The area is changing definitely,” read a statement from the Mayor’s Office. “We want to get the best and highest use from that property. We applaud them and welcome it, but we have to do our due diligence and make sure it’s a worthy project for Everett. They have to make decisions and so do we. We don’t want to rush anything through to that hasn’t been property vetted.”
Building Inspector Jim Soper said there are some zoning changes in the works for that area, known as the Commercial Triangle, but they haven’t passed yet. Were they in place, the project would nearly be able to be built as of right.
However, because of the tight window imposed by the DEP on the project, Rossi said they chose to go through now with the old zoning in place.
Soper said that means the development must have two parking spaces per unit, and they have 670 space now – and they need 1,320 spaces. That means they are 672 spaces short of the requirements.
That, he said is a major stretch and has to be considered carefully.
There would also be variances requested for the change of use since it is an industrial district, and for parking – those two in particular.
Already, some in the City are signaling some support for the project, including Councilor Michael McLaughlin.
“Any time we have the opportunity to redevelop a blighted an unsightly parcel of land for better use it can only be a benefit,” he said. “This being said a project of this magnitude can’t just go quickly through the process. This has to be carefully looked at and thought out. This development will have a major impact with the amount of units and mixed-use at this site. I strongly believe it can be a benefit to the over all master plan of the Parkway area if it is done correctly.”
Rossi said the buildings would be about 70 feet tall and would have amenities like a pool, movie hall and exercise facilities. He said about 80 percent of the units are one-bedrooms and studios – catering mostly to young professionals such as have been coming to Chelsea. He said he didn’t anticipate the development attracting any families that would burden the schools – as the units would be on the small side for a family.
“We don’t have the time to waste because the DEP wants a resolution one way or another,” he said. “It’s a good development. It’s better than what is there now. It’s on the other side and will bring in a different kind of people than we have in the young professionals.”
Soper said they would have to look at all the variances, but did feel that a development there would be preferable to Wood Waste given the changes.
“That would be a benefit to the City and much better tasting to our appetite for development than what we have there,” he said.