By Adam Swift
Ward 1 City Councillor Joanne McKenna and at least one neighbor have concerns about plans to build a six-unit condominium building on Endicott Avenue at Monday nightâ€™s council meeting.
The proposal by Michael Casoli and MAC Realty Trust would replace a six-unit building at 141-143 Endicott Ave. that was among the structures that burned down during a fire in May of 2021.
â€œDue to the age of that structure, which was constructed around 1920, the request to reconstruct the building must come before the City Council,â€ said Nancy Oâ€™Neil, the attorney representing Casoli. â€œThe proposed reconstruction building â€¦ is substantially similar to the 1920 building. The building formerly contained six units, the proposed building will also contain six units.â€
The proposed building will be slightly longer and more narrow than the previous building, and will also be slightly taller to allow for ground floor parking with six spaces. The units would be condominiums, allowing for home ownership opportunities in the city, Oâ€™Neil said.
â€œOverall, the reconstruction represents a significant improvement over the current condition of the old lot, will lessen congestion in the neighborhood by allowing parking, and will allow for additional home ownership opportunities,â€ she said.
Laura Ross, whose house next to the proposed building on Endicott Avenue was also lost in the 2021 fire, said she has serious reservations about the proposal.
â€œThis is very emotional for me to be here, because this was a very traumatic event,â€ said Ross. Ross noted how the house had been in her family for decades before it burned down, adding that she is now working to have it rebuilt.
â€œI was the neighbor to Michael Casoli, his trust, his building, and it was a long 20 years,â€ Ross said. â€œI donâ€™t feel like he was a good neighbor.â€
Ross said she believed there were people in his building that were making it unsafe for her and her children to reside in their home, and added that she believed Casoli never properly took care of issues when she raised them with him.
â€œHe is grandfathered in to build on his current footprint, he should have to build on his current footprint,â€ said Ross. â€œHe should not be given any variances, variances should not go to someone who is not a good neighbor.â€
Ross said she would at least want an assurance that Casoli would not convert the condominiums to rental units in the future due to financial concerns. She said she was also concerned about a rooftop deck proposed for the project that would overlook her property, and where people could possibly grill outside.
â€œThere was a fire before the final fire, it was started by a cigarette, it was in the front of his old building,â€ said Ross. â€œIt was the same family that flung a cigarette out the back of his building and set the whole neighborhood on fire.â€
McKenna said she agreed with many of the points made by Ross.
â€œPeople were grilling on a 100-year-old wooden structure, they were smoking, he had raccoons in the roof that were going in and out â€“ he was asked to stop this and he didnâ€™t,â€ she said. â€œWhat Iâ€™m afraid of going forward is heâ€™s asking for a roof deck and I think as a council, we should put some stipulations on this.â€
Council President Patrick Keefe said the proposal will be discussed during the councilâ€™s March 6 zoning subcommittee meeting.
â€œI hope, attorney Oâ€™Neil, you will take into consideration some of the questions one of the direct abutters had, and certainly the questions and comments that Councillor McKenna had,â€ said Keefe.