WOBURN - With negotiations ongoing over the downtown project's scale and parking demands, the City Council recently continued without comment a hearing regarding a proposed a mixed-use redevelopment by the Woburn Bowladrome complex.
During their latest meeting earlier this week, the aldermen voted unanimously to table discussions regarding Stoneham developer Robert Johnson's pitch to tack a second story apartment complex onto a nondescript retail storefront at 12 Monvale Ave.
Local attorney Joseph Tarby, who is representing the landowner, did not provide any updates about committee-level discussions over the project. With members of the Special Permits Committee similarly mum about the status of those talks, the council did acknowledge and consent to a written request from the area lawyer to continue the public hearing until Aug. 4.
Johnson is proposing the construction of four dwelling units above an unremarkable single-story office building that has been vacant for a number of years. The rectangular 3,250 square foot building, which runs a surprising distance back from Montvale Avenue towards the Walnut Street lot and the backside of Woburn Center businesses, was last used by a commercial cleaning company.
When the full council last deliberated over the project in mid-June, Tarby circulated two legal opinions that confirmed Johnson's rights to suspend a balcony over a common alleyway between his site and the Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina by Main Street.
With one of those legal summaries coming from City Solicitor Ellen Callahan-Doucette, who agreed the second-story apartments did not interfere with easement rights, the council subsequently turned to concerns about whether the project is too big and relies too heavily on municipal parking in the Walnut Street parking lot.
With no onsite parking spaces of his own, Johnson's special permit petition seeks permission to rely upon eight public spots within the municipal lot in order to meet requirements under the city's zoning code. Per local 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 to the downtown area — there is growing concern that the spots are not turning over frequently enough to support commerce at area storefronts and restaurants.