ZBA Approves Village Street Special Permit

Reading, MA — By a vote of 4-1, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit to raze a non-conforming four-unit building at 48-52 Village Street and to replace it with a new four-unit building. Property owner Kevin Emery said the building has been vacant for “some time.” Attorney David Traniello, speaking for Emery, shared that the current building is non-conforming to the S-15 bylaw because it is a four-unit building in a single-family district and encroaches on the required setbacks. The building was built in the 1890s before zoning bylaws were created in Reading.

Traniello continued, explaining that the new building will be placed on a new foundation with a smaller footprint and will conform to current setback bylaws on all sides. “It actually is an improvement,” Traniello noted. Traniello also reminded the board that if a special permit is granted and once the new building is conforming, it can never be returned to non-conforming status. Emery added that the plan is for the proposed building to be owner-occupied condominiums instead of rental units. Parking at the site will remain the same as it is now, with each unit deeded two off-street parking spots.

ZBA member Cynthia Hartman questioned how the character of the proposed building would differ from the current building. Emery responded, sharing that the height will be about the same, though the new building will have a square roof line as opposed to the gable and dormer roof of the current building. 

Neighbors and abutters expressed concerns regarding construction, asbestos abatement, and contractor parking. Emery assured the abutters that all regulations on these issues would be abided by. Hartman also asked why Emery wanted to rebuild instead of refurbishing the current structure. Emery responded that the existing building is “rundown” and that a newer, cleaner building would be more efficient. He also noted that refurbishment would be a challenge, given the age of the structure.

Acting ZBA chair Damase Caouette opined that the rebuild would likely be considered better as it will improve the setbacks. “It looks like it works,” Caouette stated. Caouette also shared that the four-unit status of the building is a grandfathered use and thus would be allowed. He also indicated that this use would not be allowed were the site not in a grandfathered state. 

Hartman expressed concern that the new roof line would make the new building feel bigger than the current building and would be more detrimental to the neighborhood. Hartman was the one dissenting vote because of this issue. It was also noted that the project would likely be subject to site plan review by the Community Planning and Development Commission.

ZBA reorganized itself, appointing Hartman as chair and member Andrew Grasberge as vice chair. ZBA adjourned at 8:00 pm.

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