WOBURN - Against the advise of the neighborhood's alderman, the City Council recently okayed a Burlington developer's request to tack a basement onto a two-bay garage in a West Side subdivision.
During their most recent gathering in City Hall, the aldermen in a 6-to-2 vote modified a 2016 special permit issued to 15 Sorelle Place resident Aldo Gallinelli, who last month explained the below-grade space will spare him the expense of backfilling the structure's deep foundation with gravel.
The council also agreed to amended the original subdivision permit to allow the homeowner to attach oversized garage doors that exceed Woburn's eight-foot height standard. Gallinelli technically was not exceeding those dimensional standards, as each bay will only be eight-feet tall, but the council opined a special permit was necessary in order for those doors to be 10-feet wide.
The Burlington builder, who plans to plow the road around the larger 12-lot subdivision off of Sorelle Place, explained he needed the extra space in order to pull plow trucks in and out of the garage.
The City Council first opened up the public hearing on the petition late last month, but continued the proceedings at the request of Ward 7 Alderman Lindsay Higgins, whose district includes the 4,896 square foot home.
Higgins ultimately voted against the petition along with Ward 5's Darlene Mercer-Bruen.
In an unusual setup, Gallinelli's 3.36-acre homestead at 15 Sorelle Place has a Burlington address, despite being situated within Woburn. Roughly bordered between by the forested area between Ryan Field, Lowell Street, and Burlington's Middlesex Commons site, the million-dollar property is tucked behind a larger 12-lot subdivision that includes parcels in neighboring Burlington and Lexington.
Besides the plow truck, the subdivision builder also intends to use the garage to stash a tractor, which he will use on a sprawling front yard that is being used for farming.
Echoing concerns cited last month, Higgins told her colleagues that activity around Gallinelli's residence continues to draw complaints from neighborhood abutters, who accuse the Burlington resident of encroaching upon nearby conservation land.
The West Side alderman, confronting the petitioner directly about her concerns, also argued that Gallinelli has repeatedly appeared before city officials for special permit modification after beginning unauthorized work.
"I received phone calls after the last hearing about issues with the conservation land and you encroaching on it. I can't in good conscience vote for this," said Higgins, who asked her peers to defer to her judgement and join her in opposing the request.
Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Campbell, trying to understand the neighborhood alderman's rationale, later asked for clarification about the alleged conservation land issues. However, with Higgins unable to demonstrate a clear connection between the present request and those complaints, Campbell joined with those supporting the request.
Nearly three years ago, the Burlington developer first obtained the city's permission to construct the two-bay garage. However, he didn't begin work until last year, and when he begun excavations, he realized soils on the site were unsuitable for supporting the structure.
He reportedly had to dig down more than 12-feet to removal that fill.
He then poured the foundation, but when Building Commissioner Thomas Quinn received word about the builder's plans to add a basement, Gallinelli was instructed to apply for a special permit amendment.
"The building commissioner said for every little change, even if it's moving a window, you have to go to the City Council," the homeowner acknowledged at the recent meeting.
Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, who last month also had a variety of questions about the garage design, sought clarification on whether any other work had been done at the property recently.
In response, Gallinelli explained that he had braced the foundation and erected a fence around the construction area to ensure his grandchildren didn't hurt themselves, but had otherwise complied with Quinn's order to halt activity.
Gately also posed several questions about the structural integrity of the garage, since the design now included a large basement, and also inquired about the homeowner's familiarity with winterizing the water connections in unheated subterranean spaces.
"Sir, I own quite a bit of real-estate. I know you have to shut the water off or it will freeze," the petitioner responded somewhat impatiently.
With no members of the public speaking during the hearing, Gately subsequently made the motion to approve the special permit change.