By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
Stymied for more than a year and a half, by a halting appeals process, the owners of the former Winthrop Hospital building this week appeared before the Planning Board and asked that their property be included in the Special Development Overlay District, that was initially created to spur redevelopment at the Dalrymple School, but was left open to consider the inclusion of other deteriorating or obsolete buildings around town.
After almost two hours of presentations, questions and wrangling between groups on both sides of the issue, the Planning Board agreed to continue the hearing to its next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Joseph Harvey Hearing Room.
If the Planning Board does vote to include the hospital site in the SDOD, the full Town Concil would then have to approve that recommendation by a two-thirds majority and then the owners of the building, Winthrop Cove Realty Trust, would still have to go though an exhaustive public permitting process. That process would include site plan review. However, the more liberal restrictions of the SDOD could potentially allow for the creation of the 78 residential units the developer has said it would seek in the SDOD.
Attorney James Cipoletta, representing the developers, told the Planning Board that WCRT has pledged not to expand the existing building in any way, if the property is included in the SDOD and also told the board that the latest proposal provides for ample parking under the less restrictive SDOD.
Meanwhile, William DiMento, the attorney representing the Lincoln Street neighborhood Association, which has opposed the developers plans for the building from day one, told the Planning Board that he was concerned that the SDOD could be usd by anyone who wishes to re-develop their property into condominiums, without any regard for the underlying zoning of the land.
In 2004, the Zoning Board of Appeals issued a decision to allow the creation of 69 condominium units within the building, based on its estimate of the maximum allowable parking on the property. However, both sides appealed the decision to Land Court and now decision has been rendered as yet.
Attorney Cipoletta told the Planning Board that the discovery portion of those cases has been completed and the sides are now at the point where they’re ready to ask for a trial date. However, he told the board that the developers would drop their appeal, if the board votes to include the property in the SDOD.