Zoning Board Denies Large-Scale Forbes Project

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied a large-scale development on the Forbes site in Mill Hill and approved a four-unit development on the old Parrotta’s Bar site at Williams Street during a meeting on Tuesday night.

With three agenda items cancelled, including TND’s French Club site, in order to wait for Planning Board hearings next week, the full agenda became much lighter – with Forbes going first.

Attorney Paul Feldman said there were no changes proposed to the development, that coming despite rampant displeasure with the project at a December ZBA meeting and a recommendation to deny by the Planning Board also.

“We are not proposing changes to the proposal that we shared at the last public hearing,” he said. “We believe after looking at the zoning ordinances that we meet the criteria…and ask you to approve the Special Permit.”

The plan by the Chinese company YIHE Forbes – which looked to spend in the ballpark of $500 million to make the project on the old Forbes Industrial site a reality – is very ambitious and has drawn attention since last summer when it was submitted due to the large number of units and the 27-story skyscraper that is the centerpiece of the project. There is also a major retail component, as well as open space and hotel operations. It would be phased over 11 years.

Councillor Matt Frank said neighbors are still against it and so is he.

“I believe the Board can go forward and deny it and make it go away now,” he said.

That’s just what the ZBA did, denying it by a 3-0 vote.

  • A second proposal for 73 Winnisimmet St. has been just as controversial, even though much smaller. The active waterfront neighborhood has been fighting developer Genevra Faber for months on the project – including a hearing in December that lasted more than an hour and grew very contentious at times.

On Tuesday, Attorney Nick Nardone announced that they were scaling down from the eight units previously proposed in what would be a brand new building. Instead, they will offer two commercial units on the ground level and four residential units on the top two floors – units that would be two-bedroom and around 1,300 sq. ft. Another change was to take the parking garage out of the plan and return to an open air parking lot. The new building would be just about the same footprint as the existing building, and there would be six parking spaces.

A roof deck was also moved to accommodate neighbors on the eastern side of the building.

“We do believe this is a good compromise between the neighbors and the developer and we hope the Board believe that as well,” Nardone said.

Said abutter Connie Medico, “This is an improvement but I would like to see the two commercial spaces with limited hours so you don’t have a 7-11 slide in there.”

The commercial spaces would require approval by the ZBA for most uses and are limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sardine said Faber envisions businesses locating there doing office-type work.

Several neighbors, though less emphatically, still did not like the project and went against it. That was mainly because of the parking situation. The project requires around 11 spaces and only six are provided.

Others didn’t like the integration with the developer, who they said has only recently changed the plans.

“In this long process, this is the first time I’ve seen any addressing of the concerns of the neighbors,” said Allison Shepherd. “It’s about time, but I still think it’s too big.”

More than a few others felt the same way.

The ZBA approved 3-0.

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