WOBURN - Ignoring planning department suggestions that the petitioner prove control of at least 14 onsite parking spaces, the City Council recently endorsed a Peabody restauranteur’s proposal to open a new pizza business in a tiny North Woburn strip mall.
During one of their latest gatherings in City Hall, the aldermen voted unanimously to grant a special permit to petitioner Theofan Qirjazi for his new Nick’s Pizza, Roast Beef & Subs shop at 901B Main St., the site of the former Pizzamore Restaurant.
The site, one of two storefronts in a single-story masonry building at Minot and School Streets by Ferullo Field, has been home to a variety of restaurants since the building was first erected in the 1940s. A second storefront adjacent to the proposed pizza shop contains a hail salon.
According to Qirjazi, who hails from Lowell Street in Peabody, he was appearing before the City Council to obtain a permit for a fast-food use because the former tenant had vacated the approximate 1,200 square foot space more than a year prior.
Under normal circumstances, the use would be grandfathered in as a pre-existing use on a non-conforming property, but because of the delay in taking over the commercial space, Building Commissioner Thomas Quinn ruled the aspiring small businessman needed to appear before the aldermen.
“There used to be another pizza place there, but because it’s been closed for a year, I have to get a special permit,” the Peabody resident explained. “I did get the permit seven months ago, but because of COVID-19 [I didn’t move in right away].”
City Council President Edward Tedesco, referencing a lengthy letter from City Planner Dan Orr, pointed out that the City Hall official believes the petitioner should be required to provide proof that the site contains at least 14 parking spaces that will be dedicated solely for the restaurant use.
Under Woburn’s zoning ordinances, fast food uses within the underlying business highway (BH) district are required to furnish a dozen parking spots for every 1,000 square feet of restaurant space.
In response to the planning department memo, Darling Drive resident Gary Leavitt, an acquaintance who accompanied Qirjazi to help him communicate details of the proposal to the council, argued that the commercial site has housed restaurants for decades now.
According to Leavitt, due to the non-conformity of the lot, which contains around 5,600 square feet of total space, the landlord lacks the ability to expand on-site parking beyond the small parking lot that runs behind the building.
“The parking lot that exists, there’s no way you could change that,” said Leavitt. It’s been there for what 50 to 75 years? Whatever businesses that have been there, they’ve been using the same parking out back [all along].”
Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, who represents South End residents but grew up in North Woburn, also dismissed the notion that parking would become a problem. According to Gately, though the site is indeed limited in the number of onsite spaces, there is plenty of public parking in front of the Main Street business and along Minot and nearby side streets.
“I grew up there and used to hang out at the Schelzi’s right down the street. I know that building well,” Gately reminisced. “That building has always been a cornerstone for the people of North Woburn and there’s always been some kind of restaurant there.”
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt to let this man open-up a 1,200 square foot pizza shop in that building. The parking is what it is. I mean, they can’t change it,” added the Ward 2 alderman.
Tedesco, whose constituency includes all of North Woburn, similarly declared the parking questions as a non-factor in light of the history of the property.
Before granting the approval, the council did attach several conditions to the special permit, including a stipulation that the business’ daily hours of operation be limited to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Peabody resident must also provide rodent control on the site, screen the dumpster area, and furnish a plot plan showing the business’ layout.