Kathleen Clark of Warren Avenue has had enough trauma from 80 Warren Ave., and came to the City Council for the second time in her life on Monday night to try to prevent a second round of trauma caused by overdevelopment.
Clark appeared during a public hearing Monday night for a change to the R1 zoning district, a mostly residential district in the City that some on the Council are proposing to be more densely developed, along with many other neighbors sounding off on a broad package of zoning changes – some of which, like the R1 proposal – had been roundly defeated and opposed earlier this year when City Manager Tom Ambrosino proposed them.
Clark’s story, however, was unique.
On her quiet street, directly across the street from Councilor Leo Robinson, a tremendous act of violence took place on May 22, 2017, when the late Kelly Pastrana began shooting at his wife and 10-year-old daughter, got in a standoff with police and then set the home on fire.
“My family and I have suffered personal mental anguish over that property as we were the family that provided shelter for the two females from the property who had been confronted with a firearm,” she said. “Never again will I forget that experience and the feelings I felt that night. Not only at that time, but still to this day that property continues to impact our neighborhood negatively.”
She said the last time she came to the Council, she and her neighbors were asking for permission to demolish the home, to get rid of a horrible memory and a burnt out shell on their street.
The Council agreed.
However, now that vacant lot is being sought by developers and real estate professionals who hope to capitalize on the R1 zoning change and build twice as many units there as is currently allowed.
“When everyone was running away from Chelsea years ago, we the residents of Warren Avenue chose to stay in our neighborhood,” she said. “Years ago you couldn’t give away property in Chelsea, but we remained and were proud to say we were residents of Chelsea. Fast forward years ahead and we have investors looking to pick out city apart and turn it completely upside down for one reason and one reason only – profit.”
The R1 changes had previously been proposed, but was withdrawn in the face of great opposition by residents, organizations and Council members. However, it was brought back by Council President Roy Avellaneda and Councilor Giovanni Recupero, who believe more density is needed in certain districts to spur greater housing creation. The proposal would change the minimum lot size per dwelling unit to 3,100 sq. ft., and allow three family dwellings by Special Permit, where they are now prohibited.
“I don’t plan on going nowhere,” said Kathleen’s husband, William Clark. “My neighbors are the best you could ask for and I live on a perfect street. It was a lot quieter before the incident, but now they want to change everything. Stick with us.”
Others speaking against it were Diane Cullinane and Patricia O’Flaherty, among others.
Another change to the R2 Zone would change the minimum lot size for 1 to 6 family dwellings to 3,500 sq. ft. for the first unit, and then 1,000 sq. ft. for each additional unit, but not less than 5,000 sq. ft. in total. It would also change the minimum lot size for seven or more units to 3,500 sq. ft for the first unit, and 950 sq. ft. for each additional unit but not less than 10,000 sq. ft. – also changing the minimum open space per unit to 100 sq. ft.
That was not as controversial and one resident from the Bellingham Hill area spoke in favor of the matter, and had appeared before in favor of it too.
Later, both were continued within the public hearing, and it appears that City Manager Tom Ambrosino is looking to do outreach meetings over the summer on the changes with the Council and residents. A potential vote in the fall could take place on both changes.
•THREE OTHER ZONING CHANGES PASS EASILY
The Council also passed three other zoning amendments by a vote of 10-0, with two of them having been proposed before but had been caught up in the controversy of the other zoning matters and withdrawn as well.
The first and most critical of those is a Mixed-Use Overlay district for the industrial area between the Market Basket and the Stop & Shop and bordering on the Everett city line. A few years ago, Everett changed its zoning in that area, known as the Commercial Triangle, and has attracted massive amounts of development.
Chelsea has attracted some development at the old Chelsea Clock building, but Ambrosino said he hopes the overlay district could bring in the kind of projects that are coming to Everett.
Councilor Robinson said one of the most important matters for the district is at the Stop & Shop, where a massive development is proposed on the Everett side, and he said he is worried that the Chelsea side of the property could “end up getting just a parking lot.”
Another zoning change was approved 10-0 to rezone the area where the abandoned Pollo Campero restaurant is located. Right now, that district is a residential zone, but Ambrosino said it would make more sense to make it a Business Residential district. That would allow retail and office on the first floor, and then residential units above.
A final zoning change dealt with allowing Electric Vehicles to be repaired and prepped for delivery at a location on Griffin Way. It was also approved 10-0.
•CHIEF KYES CONTRACT EXTENSION
City Manager Tom Ambrosino reported that he has re-negotiated the contract for Chief Brian Kyes early in order to keep him in place for until 2025.
Ambrosino said the five-year contract he negotiated in 2017 with Kyes is due to run out in 2022. The new contract would be for four years and would seal up the chief until June 2025. There no material changes to the contract other than the extension.