ZBA Approves Variances for 20-Unit Apartment Building on Lee Burbank Highway

The Revere Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) held its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, January 24, in the City Councillor Joseph A. DelGrosso City Council Chamber at Revere City Hall. On hand for the session were chair Robert Tucker and fellow members Aklog Limeneh, James O’Brien, John Lopes, and Arthur Pelton. The first matter on the agenda was a request from Joseph Ciampa for setback variances to enable him to construct a five-story, 20-unit, residential apartment building at 419 Lee Burbank Highway. The matter had been continued from the previous month in order for the developer to meet with the residents of the nearby neighborhood to address their concerns. Atty. Gerry D’Ambrosio presented the application. He notes that the site is in the General Business (GB) district where an apartment house is allowed as a matter of right. The property had been the location of the former Three Yolks Restaurant in a building that is now condemned. D’Ambrosio pointed out that the site has no access to the neighborhood behind it, noting that the homes behind the site are located on a cliff 50 feet above the property. Getting to the heart of the reasons for the variance requests, D’Ambrosio told the ZBA, “This is a stereotypical, irregular, triangular-shaped lot of 11,457 sq. of the sort for which variances routinely are granted. In addition,” he continued, “the lot has a severe elevation challenge in the rear that also is important for zoning relief consideration.” D’Ambrosio further said that the soil conditions “will require a lot of topography work.” Finally, he noted that there may be some contamination on the site that the owner will remedy. “This is an exemplar lot for which the ZBA should give relief,” D’Ambrosio added, also noting that his client has been seeking a commercial tenant for five years to no avail. D’Ambrosio said that all 20 of the units will be one-bedroom apartments for which there will be 22 parking spaces on the ground floor. All traffic will exit and enter on Lee Burbank Highway. “We lowered the height of the building by 11 feet after the community meeting so that it will cause no obstruction to any home behind it,” concluded D’Ambrosio. Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky spoke in favor of the proposal. “I’ve been working with Mr. Ciampa on this land for five years,” said the veteran councillor. “He initially wanted something commercial. When he wanted a residential building, I said it was too high and asked him to reduce it and he did. The houses in the immediate rear on Hopkins St. and Augustus St. are 50 feet above it — it literally is a cliff. I know people want a smaller building, but I feel comfortable with this.” A number of residents spoke in favor of the project, including two persons who stated that the site presently is an eyesore and the project will be an improvement for the city, as well as a person who is a tenant in another property owned by Mr. Ciampa and who noted that he is “a wonderful landlord.” Attorney Craig Rourke, representing Michelle Mongiello and her family (who own a number of nearby vacant lots in the immediate area), said the developer has failed to meet his burden pursuant to the statute. Rourke said that the variance for parking will harm the public good because overflow parking will go onto a nearby side street. (It was noted later in the meeting that residents of the building will not be eligible for the city’s residential parking plan either for themselves or their visitors.) “There is nothing unique or distinctive about this lot and nothing has been shown to prove that this is a substantial hardship,” Rourke concluded, citing the language of the statute that governs zoning variances. Newly-elected City Councillor at Large Michelle Kelley said she was neither supporting nor opposing the project, but asked, “Why is relief necessary? Why can’t a building be built within the lot without the need for variances?” Dr. Aida Padron, a resident of 25 Hopkins St., opposed the project. “Why don’t they build something that is more appropriate for the size and shape of that lot?” asked Padron, essentially echoing Councillor Kelley’s question. “Why can’t they build something that will make everybody happy, their side and our side?” Another resident of Hopkins St. said the building “will interfere with my privacy because of its height.” In response to Councillor Kelley’s query, D’Ambrosio said that the Revere zoning ordinances were drawn up decades ago, similar to those in other cities and towns, and are antiquated. “The Revere of 1950 is not the Revere of 2024,” he said. “The costs of 1950 are not the same as the costs of 2024.” “After our last meeting, there was a concern about the height of the building and the height has been adjusted,” said Tucker at the conclusion of the hearing. “We also will be imposing a parking restriction, so that residents will not be eligible to participate in the city’s resident parking permit program.” With that stipulation added to the usual conditions for the granting of variances, the board unanimously approved the application. The second agenda item was a request from Basilio DiFlumeri for three variances to enable him to convert an existing single-family dwelling into a two-family dwelling at 22 Sullivan Street (which is in the neighborhood bordered by Conant, Fenley, Ensign, and Malden Sts.) The present structure consists of a modest, one-family, split-level residence. The variances DiFlumeri requested were: 1. Revised Revere Ordinance (RRO) Section 17.24.070 (A) (1) with respect to the requirement that no parking shall be allowed within the front yard in front of the house for a two family use within the RB District; 2. RRO Section 17.24.070 (A) (4) with respect to the requirement that at least 40% of the front yard shall be landscaped for a two-family dwelling; 3. RRO Section 17.28.050 (F) with respect to the requirement that no driveway shall be greater than 20 feet in width for a two family dwelling. Mr. DiFlumeri represented himself. He said he has owned the property for 10 years as a rental home and the present tenant is moving out. “We’re looking to improve the property and turn it into a two-family,” DiFlumeri said.  There was one opponent, who was speaking on behalf of his mother, who is a resident next door at 30 Sullivan St.  “My real concern is for my mother, who has lived there since the 1950s and is in her 90s,” he said. “She has no parking on her property, but she has her spot in front of her house and she has a handicap placard,” he added, suggesting that the additional unit being sought by the applicant will result in more on-street parking (though Tucker pointed out that his mother can resolve that problem if she applies for a handicapped parking spot to be placed in front of her house from the Traffic Commission). After some questions for the applicant from the board pertaining to the parking issue, the board voted 3-2 in favor of granting the variances, with Lopes and O’Brien voting “No.” However, since variance requests need a two-thirds majority vote from the ZBA, the application failed. The final matter on the agenda was a request from Olympia Development for an additional six-month extension of the one-year exercise period for the variances that the ZBA granted last year to enable Olympia to construct a new, five-story, residential development at 791 Broadway. Atty. Nancy O’Neil, representing Olympia, told the members that two old oil tanks on an adjacent property have been found to be leaking and clean-up of the contamination may be necessary by Olympia. The board unanimously voted to grant the six-month extension. The next meeting of the ZBA is set for March 27. (There will be no February meeting.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.