ZBA finds changes at “The Met” to be Insubstantial

After Matthew Zuker, developer of the Lincoln/Prescott 40B, known as The Met at Reading Station, re-presented changes to the landscaping plan and interior lighting plan, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) found by a vote of 5-0 that both changes were insubstantial changes to the project on Wednesday, December 18. The ZBA had requested at the December 4 meeting that Zuker provide specific documentation as to what changes had been made to the plan. Zuker provided the board with new drawings that showed the comparison between the approved plans and what has actually been completed. He pointed out that there is actually an additional 260 square feet of landscaping from what was previously approved. “The addition of the bushes to the western side was great.” ZBA member John Jarema commented. The ZBA had completed a site walkthrough just prior to the meeting.

Zuker also presented evidence that as-built lighting changes made to the plan, on average, create less light at the property line than the original plan allowed. Zuker also reminded the board that two-thirds of the lights are on motion sensors which shut off five minutes after the last movement is detected. “[The new lights] are two-thirds as bright as the plan we approved.” ZBA member Nick Pernice noted after looking at the evidence. “Driving down Prescott Street, it’s not obtrusive at all.” ZBA member Robert Redfern stated. Redfern also noted that the lights on the parking area across the street from The Met are brighter than the lights from the new building.

Zuker also applied to have a sign to be placed on the Lincoln Street facade be declared an insubstantial change as well. Zuker shared that the sign will not be lit and that the only aspect of the proposal that is not compliant with the bylaw is the placement of the sign higher than the second-floor sill. Zuker continued, suggesting that the bylaw did not contemplate a four-story building when it was originally drafted. Building Commissioner Mark Dupell argued that his interpretation of the sign bylaw suggested that the proposed sign would be too large for the space. Several members disagreed when looking at the architectural design of the sign plan, ZBA Chair Damase Caouette referring to it as “tasteful.” Pernice agreed, “[The sign] seems to fit with the scope of the project.” ZBA member Erik Hagstrom, while thinking the sign was appropriate, wondered if the board should find it substantial, which would lead to a hearing, allowing the public to weigh in on the issue. Town Counsel reminded the board that the only question to be determined was impact of the change on the surrounding neighborhood. Ultimately the board voted 5-0 to find the addition of a sign to the facade as shown on the plans to be insubstantial. “The discussion that happened tonight is exactly what would have happened in a public hearing.” Town Counsel observed.

ZBA also continued a public hearing for an appeal of the decision of the Building inspector regarding the applicability of the Zoning Bylaw at 104 Main Street and adjourned at 8:20 pm.

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