WOBURN - After seeing the Planning Board's lengthy criticism of the zoning initiative, Mayor Scott Galvin recently urged the City Council to carefully reconsider aspects of a Railway Overlay District (ROD) that aims to spur housing developments by Green Street.
During the aldermen's most recent gathering in City Hall, the elected officials acknowledged the receipt of the letter from Galvin, who, in light of the planners' concerns, implored the council to refer the ROD legislation back to its Ordinance Committee.
In the correspondence, the city executive questions whether the zoning legislation should be tweaked to prevent the overdevelopment of a handful of industrial properties clustered around the abandoned railroad tracks by Green Street and the edge of Woburn Center.
According to Galvin, though he sees merit in the general ROD concept, which has already attracted interest from one Green Street landlord, he shares the Planning Board's concerns about the legislation's broader implications for the South End side of the downtown area.
"I respectfully request that the council refer this matter back to committee, so that the questions and issues raised in the Planning Board's report can be fully considered and properly vetted before a final vote is taken," the mayor wrote.
"I am also uneasy about the possibility that approval of this zoning amendment will most likely lead to requests for similarly-dense developments on other industrial parcels in the contiguous area heading south to the Woburn/Winchester line," he later adds.
The council, after continuing a public hearing regarding the ROD, did later agree to send the proposal back to committee.
Over the summer, Ward 3 Alderman Mark Gaffney and Ward 6's Edward Tedesco introduced the zoning initiative as a way to encourage the redevelopment of a handful of dilapidated industrial buildings by Prospect and Green Streets and the former Boston & Maine Railroad line that runs towards Winchester.
At the moment those council ROD deliberations began, local attorney Joseph Tarby emerged to outline plans from two of his clients, who own 8-10 Green St., to be the first to take advantage of the special zoning ordinance.
Specifically, George Gately Jr. and Edward Hovsepian hope to redevelop the 2.17-acre parcel by Prospect Street into a four-story apartment complex containing 54 dwelling units. Currently, the industrial site by the old Boston & Maine Railroad line is peppered with a number of dilapidated warehouse buildings.
Since that time, a handful of residential abutters have objected to that apartment proposal and the implementation of the ROD. Those opponents contend the overlay district, by allowing 50-foot tall buildings and a housing density of 25-units per acre, could drastically alter the character of the neighborhood and portions of the downtown area by St. Charles Church.
Earlier this month, the Planning Board, which visited the Green Street parcel in late September, echoed those concerns.
Pointing out the ROD would allow denser housing projects than what was just approved for the Woburn Mall redevelopment, the appointed officials also criticized as too lenient a 1.5-space per housing unit parking requirement.
In his letter to the City Council, Galvin acknowledged the potential benefits that could result from cleaning up likely contaminated industrial sites like 8-10 Green St. However, he argued that based upon the Planning Board's unusually long report regarding the ROD, it's appropriate to take a pause and make sure the overlay district fits in with the city's overall economic development objectives.
"I remain very supportive of developments that benefit the city and can readily see the positive aspects of the conceptual redevelopment plan for 8-10 Green St. that would be built if the rezoning is approved," Galvin explained.
"However, I am increasingly hearing from residents that they are concerned about the impacts of some developments, most notably with density and traffic. I share their concerns in this regard, particularly since the zoning amendments you are considering would double the number of potential dwelling units that could be built," he added.