Village Street Residents Concerned Over Office Proposal

Reading, MA — Residents of Village Street expressed their concerns to the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) regarding the proposal of Ryan Berry to construct an office for his electric service company in a detached garage at 21-23 Village Street. Berry is seeking a special home occupation permit from the CPDC after already having made improvements to the structure. Residents expressed concerns regarding parking, on-site employees, traffic in the area, and how the business could affect home values and zoning in the residential neighborhood. Also of concern is the existence of an easement to adjoining properties for partial use of the garage. Residency became an issue when it was revealed that Berry does not reside in the home, but maintains a home in Wakefield. “It cannot be a home office if he does not live there.” one abutter suggested. CPDC chair John Weston confirmed, “Until you’re a resident, we cannot issue a special permit.” CPDC continued the hearing to February 10 at 8:00 pm.

Stonegate Construction presented site plan review documents to the CPDC for the former Smith Oil Property at 259-267 Main Street. Attorney Josh Latham, speaking for Stonegate, shared that the plan is for a three-story, 24-unit apartment building with a parking garage underneath. A special permit has already been obtained from the Zoning Board of Appeals for additional parking in a residentially zoned portion of the property. Although the 4.3-acre site contains significant wetlands and river frontage, the proposed building will be massed toward Main Street, distancing it from the wetlands and the adjacent residential neighborhood by over 200 feet. Latham confirmed that the proposal meets all zoning criteria including setbacks. “It’s what the town intended when it did the zoning,” Latham argued. 

Joe Peznola of Hancock Associates shared that the 42,000 square foot building will have “New England-style character” and will consist of 24 two-bedroom units, each with two parking spaces. Peznola also pointed out that the building is expected to be 37-feet tall, where a 40-foot building is allowed by zoning. Significant landscaping will be added on the front of the building, and a walking path from Cross Street to Main Street through the wetlands is being considered. Only one curb cut will be required for the proposed 26-foot driveway. A small rotary will be installed behind the building at the request of the fire department to make it easier for ambulances to leave the development. Effort will also be given to removing invasive species from the wetland area to return it to an original look. CPDC continued the public hearing to February 10 at 7:45 pm.

Infrastructure Holdings gave an update on plans for a four-house subdivision at 135, 139, & 149 Howard Street. The proposal calls for the construction of a 24-foot wide, 350-foot long road ending in a cul-de-sac. All four of the new houses will comply with all size and setback requirements. A waiver will be needed for the width of the road, as a 26-foot wide road is standard. Concern was expressed by several CPDC members over the width of the road, and suggestions were made for a wider right of way on the new street. Abutters continued to offer concern over drainage as the site is near wetland that regularly floods. The hearing was continued to 8:30 pm on February 10.

The CPDC concluded by reviewing state comments on the downtown smart growth district design guidelines that the commission submitted after several months of composition. CPDC adjourned at 10:30 pm.

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