Tensions Mount as ZBA Considers Changes at Lincoln/Prescott 40B

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Matthew Zuker, developer of the Lincoln/Prescott 40B, known as The Met at Reading Station, both got a little testy as the ZBA met regarding changes to the development on Wednesday, December 4. At issue are changes in the landscaping plan and in the lighting plan from what was previously approved. Because of the unapproved changes, Building Commissioner Mark Dupell has not granted the development a final occupancy permit. Massachusetts building code required an egress pathway from the building to the street which altered the approved landscaping on the west side of the building. The landscaping was to be on the Met’s side of the constructed privacy fence. “The part [of the property] we are talking about is pretty minimal,” Zuker commented. Zuker also stated that additional landscaping had been added in other areas of the property to make up for what had been lost on the west side, commenting that several of the additions to the landscaping were made at the request of abutters, including additional fencing and the placement of a particular tree. He also shared that his team had made some landscaping improvements on adjacent properties as well. “We have six direct abutters who are very happy,” Zuker explained. 

Matthew Zuker

ZBA members John Jarema and Robert Redfern expressed concern, that though “as-built” landscaping plans had been submitted, it was difficult to compare what had been done with what had been agreed to two years ago. They contended that they could not find that the changes were “insubstantial” when it was unclear exactly what changes had actually been made. Jarema also disliked the “after-the-fact” manner at which the request was made. “This should have come up when [the last] relief was granted in January. Is this the end?” Jarema asked. Redfern chimed in, “Your attitude is to come and ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.” The situation calmed as Zuker apologized for not submitting for approval earlier. Zuker also agreed to submit “as-built” plans as an overlay to the original plans, so that changes could be easily seen.

ZBA moved to the building’s interior garage lighting, which also had been changed from the original plans. Zuker argued that the changes should be accepted as part of the increased safety and security clause of the original agreement while commenting that the new lighting has less wattage than what was approved, but with more fixtures, for a more uniform look. He also suggested that the new lighting has less spillage than the approved plan, with almost no spillage on the property lines. “The brightest light you can see is the street light.” Zuker proclaimed. ZBA members asked Zuker for documentation of this fact which he could not provide at the moment. Both sides agreed to come together again on December 18 at 7:00 pm for final resolution, at which time Zuker will have provided the relevant information on both questions to the ZBA. Zuker’s third request, for a sign on the building, will also be discussed at that time, though Town Counsel suggested that given that no sign was ever discussed in the original agreement, the board would likely find it to be a substantial change and request a formal public hearing on the matter. Discussion of the sign would not hold up the issuance of an occupancy permit.

ZBA also voted 5-0 to approve a variance to allow Fucilli’s Restaurant to construct seven employee parking spaces on the back corner of its property, which falls in a residential district. The land was made available through changes in the wetlands regulations. Jeffrey Brem, speaking for restaurant owner Michael Palmer, stated that the additional spaces would ease parking concerns on Hopkins Street. The plan has already been accepted by the Conservation Commission. The Community Planning and Development Commission is awaiting ZBA approval of the variance before approving the site plan. One abutter has filed an appeal of the Conservation Commission’s decision with the Department of Environmental Protection, and the project will not commence until the status of the appeal has been determined.

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