WOBURN - The City Council during its latest City Hall gathering swiftly okayed a Salem Street area couple's request to construct a new three-bay garage with an oversized entry door.
Represented by Main Street attorney Robert Tedesco, Buttaro Road residents Leonard Sortino Jr. and Judith Altavesta recently appeared before the council for a special permit to erect an 1,170 square foot garage adjacent to their ranch-style house.
The Tedesco's house, which contains a net living area of roughly 1,800 square feet, is situated in a quiet single-family neighborhood by Salem and Wood Streets. Their .37-acre parcel sits on the Hilltop Terrace side of the dead-end side street.
The council, quickly satisfied the petitioners had no intentions of using the space as a living area, voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.
As Tedesco explained, under local zoning ordinances, any garage or accessory structure that exceeds 900 square feet requires special approval. His clients, who hope to store a boat and trailer in one of the garage bays, also needed the aldermen to sanction the use of one nine-foot tall door.
"Any private garage, whether detached or attached, that is to be considered an accessory to the main premises [and is] in excess of 900 square feet or with a garage bay in excess of eight feet, requires a special permit. That's why we're here tonight," said the local lawyer.
In an attempt to crack down on the construction of illegal apartments, city officials in recent years have enacted more stringent special permit criteria for oversized garages.
Until 2017, residents were allowed to build garages as large as 1,500 square feet by-right, so long as those accessory structures did not contain bay doors that exceeded eight feet in height. However, with critics saying those rules were being abused by landlords looking to sneak unsanctioned rental units in new garages, the council dropped that standard down to 900 square feet.
Also in the spring 2018, the City Council passed a second set of more stringent zoning regulations around the construction buildings like garages by stipulating that all other accessory structures would be held to the 900 square foot standard for a special permit.
Under that zoning amendment, the definition of an accessory building was expanded to include the likes of pool houses and cabanas, tool sheds, greenhouses and even in-ground pools.
Since making the rules tougher, the council has often balked at approving special permit applications for oversized garages that include utility connections and upper-story sitting areas that could later be converted to apartments.
From the outset of the hearing on the Buttaro Road request, Tedesco made it clear that his clients strictly wanted to use the space for vehicles and other storage purposes.
"The garage will be set back 150-feet from the street. One of the main reasons for this is to keep their car safely off the street. They do have a boat, so their requesting one door be at a larger height," said the attorney.
"There will be no business activity there at all. It will certainly to be used as a dwelling. Electric service will come from the house for lights and there's no plans for plumbing," he explained.
"So no water and no sewer. Are you going to heat it with gas?" asked Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately.
"No. I don't think it needs it," responded one of the homeowners.