Center Business District Zoning Decision on Appeal

The neighbors of the proposed development at 10-26 Somerset Ave. have filed a complaint in Land Court in Boston concerning a decision made by the Winthrop Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The complaint seeks to appeal the decision of the ZBA made on June 27 as it pertains to the proposed development of 10-26 Somerset Ave.,  which is owned by Envelo with Joanna Schwartz serving as chief executive officer.

The Zoning Board of Appeals decided that the boundary of the Center Business District includes the adjacent property on 20 Cottage Park Road. Therefore, the development site does not abut a Residential Zoning District and consequently may build to a maximum of four stories.

According to the town’s municipal code, the maximum number of stories allowed in the Center Business District –if it does abut a residential district – is two and a half stories.

The scope of the project includes demolishing an existing commercial building and constructing 30 apartments with four stories in a mixed-use building. But Schwartz was told she needed variances for the maximum height limitation and minimum rear yard setback by Building Inspector Al Legee. The Zoning Board of Appeals did not vote on Envelo’s applications for variances, believing 20 Somerset Ave. was within the Center Business District.

Tom and Donna Reilly, along with other neighbors on Cottage Park Road and Somerset Avenue, formed the Winthrop Neighborhood Association after they attended numerous meetings of the Planning Board, the Zoning Board and Town Council meetings regarding the boundaries of the Center Business District. A major issue the group they wanted addressed is that 10-26 Somerset is in the Center Business District and directly abuts 20 Cottage Park Road, which is zoned Residential A and is the home of Rosina Ferrante.

“Consequently, plaintiffs current appeal pertains to the board’s incorrect decision regarding the zoning boundary lines of the Center Business District,” wrote attorney Jacqueline Doherty, who represents the neighborhood association.

Doherty also wrote that there has been “overwhelming evidence submitted demonstrating that the 20 Cottage Park Road has always been zoned residential and no part of the parcel of 20 Cottage Park Road is within the Center Business District. A count in the appeal also brings out a concern over spot zoning which occurs when one single lot is singled out for different treatment.

According to the complaint, the new 2014 Center Business District ordinance allows four-story multi-unit buildings, three-quarters of a parking space per unit, and multi-unit buildings within 15 feet of an adjacent residential property. Additionally, inadequate parking could be avoided by the developer paying the town $2,000 for each required space. Members of the neighborhood association believe the 2014 ordinance gave every advantage to the developer and did not safeguard the neighborhood, Doherty wrote in the appeal.

On May 27, 2018 a petition from the residents sought to amend the 2014 zoning ordinance: a density standard of one residential unit per 2,000 square feet as required throughout the town; side and rear distances of 50 feet between a multi-unit and adjacent residential home; a reduction in building height from four stories to two’ and realistic parking of two spaces per unit and eliminate the $2,000 parking space buyout.

The appeal also contends that under the Town’s Charter, the Town Council should have acted on the May 27, 2018 petition to amend a 2014 zoning ordinance within 90 days. Instead no action was taken on it until Jan. 15, 2019 with a vote to indefinitely postpone.

Attorney James Cipoletta, who represented Schwartz in front of town boards, said the Board of Appeals “made an informed and correct decision and the project will go forward as a matter of right.”

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