By Seth Daniel
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved a 34-unit affordable housing project on the French Club site Tuesday night, Feb. 9, in a unanimous 3-0 vote – an approval that marked many months of community input and a complete redesign by developer TND.
The matter was one of the first items on a long agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting and, this time, it met with no opposition from the ZBA or the audience.
“It was nice to see the responsiveness that TND had to the neighborhood concerns,” said ZBA Member Janice Tatarka. “I believe this is a better proposal and it was important for you to listen and to hear the concerns.”
The project began last summer with a 60-unit affordable housing building with five stories and less parking per unit, plus the fact that the Spencer Avenue extension had been taken over an incorporated into the project. The small road is a key transportation point for the Mill Hill neighborhood to access City Hall without bearing the brunt of Broadway traffic.
Added to that was the fact that the matter was not heavily discussed around the neighborhood prior to it coming to City Hall for approvals. Neighbors mounted an uprising at the last minute, along with Councillor Matt Frank, and were able to force the hand of TND to go back to the drawing board.
Now, the project is at 34 units of affordable, rental housing in four stories and with one parking space per unit. Additionally, the extension has been restored for public use and the triangle, former parking lot, will be turned over to the City for either green space or parking.
“Affordable housing is very important and I think this is an awesome opportunity to provide that,” said Tim Lawrence, a neighbor at One Webster apartments. “We have a bunch of luxury units coming online soon, so to have a cohesive City of mixed incomes, a project like this is very much needed.”
TND said in a presentation that affordable housing is a priority in Chelsea, noting that rents went up 12 percent between 2010 and 2013. They also said they had 1,200 applications for 32 affordable apartments in the Box District in 2013. The average rent for a two-bedroom with utilities is expected to be $1,300. The income limits for a family of four would be $59,000.
- The Fusion Foods Restaurant, formerly of Everett Avenue near Broadway, made its initial presentation to the ZBA for a proposed move to 180 Everett Ave. near the railroad tracks and Market Basket. The location was formerly the flower shop and a pharmacy.
Owner Melissa Vo said they plan to lease the entire first floor of the building to offer 15 seats in more of a self-service model – moving away from the current table service. There would be four employees and 12 parking spaces. All current tenants would be leaving, she said.
Chamber President Sergio Jaramillo said they were in total support of the change, which requires a Special Permit for the change of use.
“Melissa has a solid reputation and we feel businesses like hers are important to our community,” he said. “It’s also an attractive location for new areas of development like the FBI building and One North.”
Mark White, a partner in the One North location, said residents of his development are looking for more restaurants and this would fit the bill.
“One complaint we get often is the low amount of good neighborhood restaurants for our tenants to go to,” he said. “We want Fusion closer to us and we want more restaurants in the community for our residents. We fully support this.”
The plan will go to the Planning Board on Feb. 23 and back to the ZBA on March 8.
- In what was a very controversial vote for abutters on Springvale Avenue, the ZBA approved the official change of a one-family home in the neighborhood to a two family home.
Candido Castaneda told the Board in Spanish that he bought the home as a two-family, only to learn later it was actually a one-family home. He said he is being taxed on a two-family and it has been used as a two-family historically.
However, two abutters came to speak against the measure, saying they moved to the neighborhood because it is predominantly one-family homes. They said most homes have an in-law apartment, but few are officially two-family homes. Both neighbors said they paid significant money, moving from elsewhere, to the street due to the one-family homes. Now, they believe the character of the neighborhood will change.
The ZBA approved the measure 3-0, and both abutters left saying they were disgusted that their voices weren’t heard.
- The ZBA denied a proposal by Peter Lam of Revere to create a electronic cigarette store called Liquid Labs at 22 Adams St. – just off the Parkway.
Members weren’t enthused with he project, and felt it sent the wrong message in regards to tobacco control. The vote was 2-1, with Planner John DePriest voting against. State law requires all affirmative decisions to be unanimous.
- The large Everett Avenue project by William Thibeault was given approval for a minor modification that chopped off a small piece of land on the garage portion of the project due to underwriting concerns. It was revealed that some of the investors in the project are state Teacher’s Union Pension systems.