By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The owner of the former Muffin Town property at 15-17 Walden St. and his lawyer appeared before the Planning Board Monday night but appeared not to be ready for the scrutiny of the board or the neighbors.
Jack Anderson, of PJP Realty, the owner of 15-17 Walden St., appeared with his attorney David McCool to propose redevelopment of his property, but the plans and drawings submitted to the board didn’t answer some basic questions…like, will the building on the property be torn down and rebuilt or will the current building be used with modifications?
Planning Board member Honor Merceret said she understood not investing in a full set of plans at this stage, but that there are basic details the board needs before moving forward.
McCool said there was supposed to be an architect at the meeting but he had a conflict at the last minute.
The commercial property, 14,000 sq. ft., is in a residential neighborhood and was granted SDOD (Special Development Overlay District) status in September, intended to rehab or reuse a property that no longer is serving its original use. The site used to house Anderson’s business Muffintown until 1999. After that it was rented out to a cross fit gym.
About a dozen neighbors and interested people attended the Monday night meeting also looking for details. On the one hand 16 condo units and in a three-story building are proposed on preliminary plans with 32 parking spaces on-site. A previous design showed 20 units. The preliminary plans propose two bedroom, two bathroom units.
“This is to enhance the neighborhood in what we consider to be a gateway to the downtown,” McCool said. “The property will help increase property values. Our goal is to increase the property values and that’s the goal of the SDOD.”
“It’s too big for the neighborhood,” said resident Gail Chase-Negroni, who was concerned about the space behind the building and how the lot is overgrown. She added that police and firefighters would have a hard time getting back there.
Resident David Soper, owner of two properties in the neighborhood, submitted a petition of 45 signatures to the board asking that the project be limited to seven-units. Soper spoke at length about the various opinions of Town Council Betsy Lane of Kopelman & Paige regarding the law and the project. Members of the board felt at time Soper was telling them how to do their job.
“We will do our job,’ said Merceret, who noted the board is looking for basic parameters to help the process go faster.
The 15-17 Walden St. project has had three petitions before the board. When the Arbors/old hospital SDOD was being worked on it took seven years. This project has already been around for a year.
“There’s frustration with this whole thing,” said neighborhood property owner Mark Hughes. “The presentations are the poorest I’ve ever seen. There are so many questions to ask.”
“It’s not easy for us to find the balance between developers and neighbors,” said Planning Board Chairman David Stasio.
The board voted to have the developer back at its January 9 meeting with many more details.
“We want this to be done correctly even if we have to meet four or five times we will,” Stasio said.