Reading, MA — At its February 12 meeting, the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) approved two downtown projects using the town’s new 40R “smart growth” zoning. The first is a mixed-use building at 467 Main Street. The site is a 18,000 square foot lot and the current location of the Sunoco gas station. The developer, Boghos Properties, LLC, plans a building with 2,500 square feet of retail space on the first floor and three floors containing a total of thirty-one residential apartments. Eight of these will be considered affordable. There was continued discussion regarding traffic flow around the site as Community Development Director Julie Mercier mentioned that the police department has made a request of the Board of Selectmen to make Green Street a right turn only where it crosses Main Street. This means any traffic from the new building wishing to go south on Main Street would have to go through the neighborhood to the Washington Street lights. The board approved the project by a vote of 5-0.
The second project is a proposed three-unit townhouse at 14 Chapin Avenue. The project’s architect, O’Sullivan Architects reduced the number of units from four to three and rotated the front door of the first unit ninety degrees to face Chapin Avenue, providing a frontage that is more appealing from the street. The reduced footprint also alleviated some of the concerns that members of the CPDC had regarding driveway width and snow removal. A few residents still raised concern regarding the height of the building, saying it is out of character with the rest of the homes on the street. Attorney Bradley Latham, representing property owner Leonard Polonski, pointed out that the planned building is three feet lower than would be allowed for a single family residence in the neighborhood. The CPDC voted 5-0 to approve the project.
Continuing a hearing with the developer of Johnson Woods, William Bergeron of Hayes Engineering presented a plan regarding parking issues at the development. Many complaints have been made by residents that the parking spaces allotted in front of the two apartment buildings are too narrow for residents to get out of their cars. The spaces as currently situated are narrower than originally approved by the CPDC. Bergeron presented a proposal to re-stripe the parking area bring the parking space width up to agreed upon widths and then asked that two spaces be added to compensate for the lost parking. The parking plan needs approval in order for the third apartment building to get a building permit. The application for the permit has already been made and the fee has been submitted.
CPDC chair Nicholas Safina asked if CPDC approval of this proposal should be held up as leverage against other issues at the site, including a foundation that was placed in the wrong location, a garage that was promised and never built, and a barn that remains despite the site plan calling for its removal. Mercier also questioned how the town would be assured that parking changes had been implemented. Latham, speaking for the developer, offered a plan that would include a $10,000 bond, and a certified agreement with a contractor confirming that the work had been done by June 1. Safina recommended a course of action that would deny any future permits at the development until the developer submits a new site plan for approval for areas of concern around the site. Latham replied that minor changes had been made to the approved plans due to changes in the market and other factors. The CPDC voted to continue the hearing until February 26.
CPDC approved the language for proposed bylaw amendments to be voted on at the April Town Meeting. The amendments deal with density and other considerations in industrially zoned areas. The CPDC also approved the Housing Production Plan that will be filed with the state later this week.
CPDC adjourned at 10:55pm.