WOBURN - With questions over easement rights now reportedly settled, the City Council will now consider whether to call for the resizing of a proposed upper-story apartment complex at a Woburn Center area storefront.
During a meeting in City Hall earlier this week, local attorney Joseph Tarby, representing Stoneham developer Robert Johnson, summarized two recent legal opinions from a private attorney and City Solicitor Ellen Callahan Doucette as confirming his clients rights to suspend a catalina-stye balcony over an alleyway off Montvale Avenue.
In late May, Johnson appeared before the city officials seeking a special permit to construct an addition over the vacant storefront at 12 Montvale Avenue, which sits between Woburn Bolwadrome and Ixtapa Mexican Grille and Cantina by Main Street.
The council, which continued a public hearing earlier this month to seek answers about the potential easement rights conflict, did not dispute Tarby's characterization of the legal findings.
At Johnson's request, the elected officials this week voted unanimously to refer the petition to their Special Permits Committee, which will review concerns about the proposed redevelopment's size and reliance upon public parking spaces within the Walnut Street lot.
"The easement area is owned by [my client]. The design plan showed the catalina leaning over the easement at [a height of] 15 feet and 6 inches. There's no restriction [detailed in the easement agreement regarding] air rights over that area," said Tarby.
"We're going to ask that this be sent to committee, so we can have a more substantive discussion about the number of units, the bedrooms, and what to do with the first floor and the parking," he added.
According to Tarby, since last discussing the layout of the site, his client has redesigned the interior entryway into the building to create a new trash room, which will be utilized by both commercial tenants and second-floor homeowners.
First constructed in 1969, the commercial structure in question contains roughly 3,250 square feet of space and last housed a commercial cleaning company office.
With street frontage directly off of Montvale Avenue, the Woburn Center side of the property runs along an alleyway that extends behind the Ixtapa Mexican Grill and Cantina off Main Street. That same alleyway runs directly into the Walnut Street parking lot and also runs by the city's stairwell leading to Marlowe Park.
Because the Woburn Center lot contains no on-site parking, part of the special permit application seeks the council to allow the developer to rely on eight public parking spaces within the Walnut Street lot to comply with minimum parking requirements for the residential redevelopment component.
Under Woburn's zoning ordinances, petitioners in the downtown business (BD) district can seek a satellite parking arrangement, so long as the target property is situated within 500-feet of a municipal lot.
In exchange, local developers must pay into a downtown parking improvement fund a one-time fee of $4,500 per satellite space.
With a number of downtown landlords recently rebuilding Woburn Center storefronts and adding housing onto the upper floors, some on the City Council have expressed concerns that too many new residents are now dependent upon spaces within the Walnut Street parking lot.
Though the council has been clear that no Woburn Center resident has an exclusive right to use those spaces — they can be occupied by any visitor the the downtown area — there is growing concern that the spots are not turning over frequently enough to support commerce at area storefronts and restaurants.
However, during this week's meeting, Tarby suggested the problem cannot be solely blamed on neighborhood residents.
"It's our position that the parking lot has a couple of problems. First, there's no enforcement, so people can park there all day or for weeks. Also the impact of the Peterson School [off Montvale Avenue] takes over most of the parking during the late afternoon and evening hours," the local lawyer argued.
Everett Street resident Robert Charette was the only citizens to address the council during the public hearing, which will pick up again at a future council meeting in late July. The area abutter, worried the developer was relying too much on public parking spaces, urged the aldermen to reduce the size of the development.
According to Charette, who was initially under the mistaken impression that the developer was purchasing exclusive access rights to public parking, he believes the addition of more housing will only worsen parking and traffic problems in the Woburn Center area.
"The traffic in the whole square area will be impacted with all this extra parking and traffic," he predicted. "[Motorists] already cut-through the parking area and onto Everett Street to bypass all the traffic."