Developers, Planning Board Dispute Reach of Board on Building Projects

If the future of Everett is decided in a meeting, then that meeting would be the heated, monthly back-and-forth sessions at the Planning Board.

As City officials continue to develop a vision for the future of Everett, some local developers are questioning how much power those officials have over the shape of their projects.

At the most recent Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, applicants for two projects engaged in some heated exchange with board members and senior City Planner Michael Vivaldi over some recommendations for those projects. Among the major issues were the extent to which the Planning Board can dictate aesthetic features of building projects, and recommendations by the City’s Transportation Department for bicycle parking, public transportation contributions for tenants, and construction of Blue Bike terminals.

“I’m really upset about this,” said Paul Delory, the attorney for a proposed 19-unit apartment building at the site of a former rooming house on 324 Ferry St. “These are conditions I’ve not yet seen imposed on other developers and we are not doing these things. No, the answer to any of that is no. N.O. Enough is enough.

“How much are you going to put on builders? Building has already ground to a halt in this city,” he continued.

In addition to the transportation recommendations, Delory and developer Andrew Philbin took issue with Planning Board member Leo Pizzano’s request that building materials be used that better reflect the vision for the neighborhood and the city.

“That’s a very ‘blah’ look in my opinion,” said Pizzano. “That’s a box of a building there; that does not look like a building that the City of Everett would want.”

Delory and Philbin both argued that proposal, which includes adding one floor to the current structure, is a vast improvement for the area over how things currently stand. They also questioned how much power the Planning Board has to dictate items such as colors and building materials for a project.

Pizzano – who noted that several recent projects had come back with a brick, or at least brick-veneer, front – had worked with the Board to create more visually-pleasing construction in the city. He also added that he was making recommendations, and that the project proponents could come back before the Board with their own counter-proposals.

Everett Developer Greg Antonelli, who also had a project up before the Board, joined in on the criticism of the Planning Board.

“Why are we even talking about traffic management plans when it has not even been enacted by the City,” Antonelli said. “It should not be discussed yet. There is a huge problem with this Board. It is imposing conditions for brick on someone’s building; that’s not what the Planning Board is here for.”

By the end of last Tuesday’s public hearing, Philbin said he just wanted to get his project moving, and would take a closer look at the Board’s recommendations before returning for the continued hearing next month.

Final action on Antonelli’s long-gestating project at 605 Broadway could finally get its approvals at the December Planning Board meeting. Antonelli has brought several iterations of a combined residential/commercial development before city officials over the past year.

The current project calls for the construction of 18 multi-family units with 13 one-bedroom apartments and five two-bedroom apartments with just under 1,300 sq. ft. of commercial/retail space on the first floor.

Before granting final approvals, Pizzano said he wanted to see what materials would be used on the front of the building. Antonelli said he will most likely use brick for the front of the building, but bristled at having building aesthetics written into the final Planning Board decision and conditions.

“Show me where the Planning Board can impose conditions on what a building looks like?” Antonelli asked. “Every single time I come before this Board, there is a heated discussion with everything.”

Vivaldi argued that building aesthetic does fall under the purview of the Planning Board.

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