ZBA Continues Hearing on Proposal for Salem St. Apartment

The Revere Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) held its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, September 21, in the City Councillor Joseph A. DelGrosso City Council Chamber.

Chairman Michael Tucker and members Aklog Limeneh, John Lopes, Hazem Hamdan, Arthur Pelton, and alternate member James O’Brien were present for the meeting.

The meeting lasted about 45 minutes in which the board tackled matters both large and small. The principal item addressed by the members was a continuation of the hearing regarding the proposal of a 25-unit apartment building on 344 Salem St. at the corner of Clifton St. The rear of the property is bounded by the Northern Strand Community Trail.

The matter came before the ZBA last August, but was continued until September to allow for the developer to meet with residents of the neighborhood, who strongly oppose the project, to try to address their concerns.

The developer, Zepaj Development of Middleboro, is requesting a number of variances for its project. The full text of Zepaj’s application is as follows;

Zepaj Development, LLC, 78 Mill Street, Middleton, requesting the following variances from the ZBA to enable the appellant to raze the existing structure and build a four-story, twenty-five (25) unit residential structure at 344 Salem Street:

1. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum front yard setback requirement of 10 feet within the NB District;

2. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum side yard setback requirement of 15 feet within the NB District;

3. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum rear yard setback requirement of 20 feet within the NB District;

4. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to maximum building coverage requirement of 40% within the NB District;

5. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to maximum height requirement of 35 feet within the NB District;

6. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to a maximum of 2 1/2 stories requirement within the NB District;

7. Noncompliance with Section 17.28.020 with respect to minimum parking requirement of 2 spaces/unit for apartment use within the NB District.

Atty. Nancy O’Neill of the local law firm of D’Ambrosio LLC presented the application to the board. Ms. O’Neill told the board that a community meeting with residents of the neighborhood had been held on September 8 and that the architect and engineer are revising the plans for the project in order to address the neighbors’ concerns that were raised at the meeting.

O’Neill asked for a further continuance in order to present the revised plans at a future meeting.

Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino spoke in opposition to the project.

“The neighbors are opposed to it,” he said. “This has been a commercial business (it formerly was the site of Gary’s Automotive) for the last 50 years or so.”

He noted that the residents have concerns about parking, the size of the building, and its proximity to wetlands. He said the residents would prefer that the property remain as a location for commercial space. “They are concerned about the size and scale of it,” Serino continued. “We are opposed to the continuance and request that they come back with a design and plan more palatable to the residents.”

John Oakes, a resident of Clifton St., which is roughly parallel to Salem St., said that the site is more conducive to a neighborhood business use, such as a store or professional offices, but not a large apartment building.

He also noted that the creek in the area feeds into Diamond Creek and the Rumney Marsh, which he said are protected waterways. Oakes also noted the parking problem in the neighborhood.

“We’re a single-family, owner-occupied neighborhood,” Oakes said. “We don’t have rental units. Our neighborhood is very nice. I hope you will vote this down tonight so we can keep our nice quiet neighborhood.”

Robin Vazquez of 21 Clifton St., who abuts the property, said that the developer only presented the same plans at the neighborhood meeting. She presented a statement on behalf of many residents of the neighborhood.

Atty. O’Neill responded that the same plan was indeed presented at the community meeting, but that a revised plan is being prepared.

The board voted 4-1, with only Mr. Limeneh opposed, to continue the hearing until its next meeting on October 26.

The board also continued another controversial matter involving a request by a homeowner on Proctor Ave. to add a driveway onto his property that will allow him to park in the rear of his house.

The full text of that application is as follows:

Herby Jean-Baptiste, 321 Proctor Avenue, Revere, seeking a variance of RRO Section 17.24.070 no parking in the rear yard to enable the appellant to establish a driveway entrance on Burbank Street, and provide two additional off-street parking spaces in the rear yard for 321 Proctor Avenue.

Mr. Jean-Baptiste presented the application to the board in which he is seeking to provide parking in the rear of his house, which is located at the corner of Proctor Ave. and Burbank St. He noted that there is no dedicated on-street parking for his home and that the variance will not create any harm for the neighborhood.

He also noted that many homeowners in the area use their backyards for parking.

A Proctor Ave. neighbor, Ruben Barboza, who lives across the street from Mr. Jean-Baptiste, said he “totally favors” the application and that he parks behind his house with a driveway that he accesses from Burbank St.

Frank D’Amelio, who lives on Burbank St., opposed the application, telling the board that the driveway will present a hazard to both pedestrians and other motorists.

Ruth Maguire, another resident of Burbank St., also spoke against the application, similarly citing traffic safety concerns.

Board member Lopes questioned how the proposed driveway would present safety concerns for the residents of Burbank St.

Mr. D’Amelio responded, saying, “I have kids who are out there playing and that hill (on Burbank St.) already is dangerous as is. Now we’re adding another driveway into it that will make it more dangerous.” He also noted that the hill is icy in the winter time.

Lopes mentioned that he took a drive by the premises and did not understand how the new driveway would make the situation on the street more dangerous.

Tucker asked a question about the slope of the driveway, but was informed that the pitch of the driveway is not an issue because it is only five percent, which is less than the eight percent that is the maximum allowable under the city’s ordinance.

Mr. Lopes suggested that another visual of the premises would be informative. The board then voted 5-0 to continue the hearing to October 26.

The ZBA approved two non-controversial matters.

Yeny Alejandra Alvarez sought the following variances from the ZBA to enable her to validate an existing gazebo structure at her residence at 20 Martin Street:

1. Noncompliance with Section 17.16.260 (F) (1) with respect that no accessory structure shall be located within the required side yard, which is 5 feet for lots less than 6,000 sf within the RB District;

2. Noncompliance with Section 17.16.260 (F) (1) with respect that no accessory structure shall be more than 10% of the rear yard.

Ms. Alvarez presented her application to the board. She explained that her contractor did not secure the necessary permits when he built the gazebo and that moving the gazebo now would prevent her from redoing a set of stairs to the house.

There were no opponents to the application.

Board member Lopes said he drove by the property and attested that the gazebo is “beautiful and the property is well-maintained.”

The board then unanimously approved the application.

Oscar R. Escobar and Reina Leonor Escobar Figueroa, 14 Bellevue Avenue, came before the board seeking a variance of RRO Section 17.16.260(F)(1) detached accessory structures may only be erected within the rear yard to enable the appellant to construct a 15’ x 8.3’ shed in the front yard of their home.

Atty. Nancy O’Neill presented the application on behalf of the Escobars. She said there already is a shed structure in place and noted that they were unable to build a shed in their backyard because of a lack of space.

She said the Escobars will add siding to the shed and paint it to match their residence at 14 Bellevue Ave. She also said that they will construct a stockade fence to hide the shed from the street.

Tucker said he was concerned that the shed presently does not match the aesthetics of the home, but was satisfied that the homeowners are willing to add similar siding and roofing to make it conform to the house.

Lopes said he also drove by and that the shed presently “is a sight for sore eyes. But knowing that they will vinyl side it and put up a fence, I can agree with that.”

The board unanimously approved the application, contingent upon a review by the Site Plan Review Committee, improvements to the shed to match the home in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing, and the construction of a fence.

The board continued another matter until October.

Sergio A., Sorto, 28 Proctor Avenue, came before the board seeking the following variances from the ZBA to enable the appellant to construct a 252 s.f. addition and reconstruct and extend the existing deck at the rear of his existing single-family dwelling:

1. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum side yard setback requirement of 10 feet within the RB District;

2. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 (a) with respect to minimum side yard setback requirement of 10 feet for all decks.

An architect representing Mr. Sorto presented the application. He said that Mr. Sorto is seeking to update his home, construct an addition on the footprint of half of the existing deck, and then add an enlarged deck.

Tucker raised a question about the width of the driveway that leads to an existing garage. The plans show a width of only 8’-9” for the driveway, which is less than the required nine feet.

The board then voted unanimously to continue the hearing to obtain more information, possibly from the Site Plan Review Committee, pertaining to the width of the driveway with the new addition factored in.

An application by Nixon Jimenez, 114 Augustus Street, who was seeking a variance of Section 17.24.070(2): No more than two parking spaces shall be allowed in tandem for a two-family use, to enable the appellant to subdivide existing lots, Lot 718 and Lot 719 at 114 Augustus Street into new lots, Lot A and Lot B, and convert a single family dwelling to a two-family dwelling on proposed Lot A and construct a new residential on proposed Lot B, was dismissed without prejudice.

This matter initially came before the board in August, but counsel for the applicant now requested that the matter be withdrawn without prejudice (which means it could be resubmitted). The board unanimously approved the request.

The ZBA’s next meeting is scheduled for October 26.

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