Planning Board against Spencer Avenue Apartment Proposal

A proposed 15-unit apartment building at 69-71 Spencer Ave. is too dense for the property, according to the majority of Planning Board members.

Last week, the Planning Board voted 4-1 not to recommend approval of special permits and variances for the project, proposed by Zepal Development, to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The project is scheduled to come before the ZBA at its Jan. 10 meeting.

“My client has also developed another project on Spencer Avenue, so he is familiar with the area and wants to keep doing business in Chelsea,” said Anthony Rossi, the attorney for the applicant.

There is currently a two-family house on the nearly 15,000-square-foot lot that the developer is looking to tear down and replace with the apartment building, which would have four affordable units among its 11 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units.

“Based on the amount of square footage on the lot, 12 units can be done by right by special permit,” said Rossi. “We are working with the city to try to compromise and offer additional affordable housing.”

Under the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, the developer would have to offer three affordable units, but is offering up an additional unit.

The apartment building would have 15 parking spaces, where 23 are required under zoning. If approved, residents of the apartment building would not be able to acquire on-street city parking permits.

Since the lot is in a flood plain, Rossi said there would be no basement and the elevation of the project would be raised about three feet to remove it from the flood plain.

Planning Board member Sarah Ritch raised some questions about the parking abutting a neighboring property and said she was concerned that the abutter had not given any input on the project.

Rossi said the developer could take some steps, including shrinking the travel land and adding some compact car parking spaces to create a small buffer with the neighboring property.

But some of the board members said the issues extended beyond parking and setbacks.

“I think the scale of the project is too big for the property,” said Planning Board member Sharleen McLean. “I think you could achieve having the necessary setbacks if you were to shrink the size of the building.”

Rossi noted that the building itself was similar in size to surrounding development on Spencer Avenue, including an adjacent apartment building built by the same developer.

If the project were to shrink in size, Rossi said the project would not be economically feasible for the developer, and the city would lose an additional affordable housing unit.

Planning Board member Mimi Rancatore said she felt the units were too small, and that the city was in need of affordable home ownership opportunities more than additional rental properties.

In other business, the Planning Board recommended approval of a special permit to renovate an existing first floor space at 260 to 270 Second Street for use as a proposed retail marijuana facility.

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