Planning Board Recommends Accessory Dwelling Ordinance

The Revere Planning Board held a special meeting in the City Hall Council Chamber last Wednesday, June 29, which included public hearings and votes on three separate matters regarding proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances.

The Planning Board acts only in an advisory capacity to the City Council, which solely has the power to adopt changes to the zoning ordinances.

On hand for the meeting were chairman Louis Ciarlone and members Anthony DelVecchio, Juan Jaramillo, and Megan Simmons-Herrling, as well as City Planner Frank Stringi.

The three proposed zoning ordinance changes were as follows:

• To amend the zoning ordinances relative to the regulation of Research and Development Facilities;

• To amend the zoning ordinance for the creation of accessory dwelling units within the RA, RA1, RB, and RB1 Districts; and

• To amend the zoning ordinances relative to affordable housing.

With regard to the first matter, Stringi explained that Level, 1, 2, and 3 biomedical labs presently are allowed as of right in the Suffolk Downs Overlay and Technology zoning districts. The proposed amendment would allow only for Level 1 and 2 labs, but prohibit Level 3 labs.

There were neither opponents nor proponents of the measure.

Ciarlone was the only board member to express an opinion, stating that he believed it would be unfair at this time to reduce the permitted lab levels inasmuch as HYM, the developer of the Suffolk Downs site, had entered into its various agreements with the city with the understanding that the zoning ordinances would allow for Level 1, 2, and 3 facilities.

His argument essentially was that any change to the zoning ordinance would be the equivalent of an ex post facto law. HYM has stated that the first building it will be completing in the Revere portion of the track site will be a biomedical research facility.

The board voted unanimously not to recommend the proposed amendment.

With regard to the creation of accessory dwelling units, there were neither opponents nor proponents of the amendment. 

“The premise of this whole thing is to allow senior citizens and parents with grown children to have apartments for their family members and in-laws. This would give us a broader range of accessible and affordable housing in the city,” said Stringi, who also explained that no accessory units will be allowed in the basement of a dwelling in the flood zone and that there will be a maximum square footage (600 sq. ft. in the RA districts and 900 sq. ft. in the RB districts) for the accessory units. They also will have to be within the current principal residence (so they cannot be allowed in an existing garage) and are not permitted within duplexes, townhouses, or condominiums.

Stringi further noted that additional off-street parking within a half-mile radius of an MBTA station is not required, but beyond a half-mile, there must be an additional parking space provided beyond the two already required for single-family homes.

In addition, all accessory units will be required to comply with the fire and health codes.

“Essentially, this will make these into two-family homes,” said Stringi.

The board voted unanimously in favor of this amendment, though with the proviso that the addition of an accessory unit only applies to existing single-family homes, which means that a two-family homeowner cannot create an accessory unit.

Concerning the proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance, Stringi explained that the new ordinance would mean that 12 percent of units within new developments will have to be deemed as affordable in order to fall within the new ordinance.

There were neither opponents nor proponents of this amendment.

Stringi said that the amendment provides “a number of offsets to encourage developers to reach the 12 percent figure.” For example, said Stringi, within a half-mile of a T station, developers would not have to provide any parking at all and beyond a 1/2 mile, there would have to be 1/2 space per unit.

Jaramillo also noted that there are other offsets, such as the waiver of building permit fees as well as some degree of tax relief to compensate for the higher density that the new ordinance is designed to encourage.

Ciarlone expressed his view that he was skeptical of “reducing parking to zero. This is a recipe for disaster.”

Stringi noted however, that residents of these units will not be eligible for on-street resident parking permits.

Jaramillo said the purpose of the ordinance is to make it possible for those who grew up in Revere to be able to afford to remain in the city.

“I can’t tell you how many of my former Revere High classmates are unable to stay here and are moving to Lynn and other communities because of the high cost of housing,” said Jaramillo, who noted that when his family moved to Revere 20 years ago, it was common to find an apartment for a family of four for $1000, but that is not the case today.

 “There is a bit of brain drain in the city and we’re pushing working families out,” Jaramillo added, while also pointing out that current Revere residents will have a priority for the affordable units and will have a 7-in-10 chance of obtaining one of the units.

After a brief discussion about the parking issue, the board voted unanimously to forward this item to the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee without a specific recommendation.

The other matter before the board addressed an oversight from more than 20 years ago when the Oak Tree Lane development took place. Apparently, one homeowner’s lot never was included in the rezoning of the area, which now is preventing that owner from moving forward with the refinancing of his property.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to sign the release of the original covenant of Oak Tree Lane for that omitted property.

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