WOBURN - The City Council last night sanctioned a proposal to slash by more than half the number of dwelling units proposed for a stalled Woburn Center redevelopment by the corner of Montvale Avenue and Prospect Street.

During a regular meeting in City Hall on Tuesday night, the aldermen in an 8-to-1 vote granted local businessman Robert Holland another two years to complete construction of a new apartment building at 27 Montvale Ave.

More than 16 years ago, Holland first obtained permission from the council to construct a 10-unit apartment complex at the vacant lot, which was long the site of a three-family residence adjacent to the Peterson School.

Given how long the redevelopment has languished, the Woburn Center landlord now wants to proceed with a four-unit complex, local attorney Joseph Tarby told the council last night. Originally, each of the 10 apartments was to contain roughly 800 square feet.

The new layout would not alter the size of the proposed building's footprint, but in one benefit touted by local officials, the change will eliminate the project's reliance upon municipal parking spaces in the nearby Walnut Street lot.

"It was for 10 units and the modified plan is for four units. The footprint remains roughly the same. Eight parking spaces are required, and eight are being provided on the site," the lawyer explained.

At the urging of Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, whose district includes the vacant parcel by the Second Burial Ground, the council — besides granting the two-year construction extension — agreed to designate the reduced-scale proposal a minor modification to the original 2003 special permit.

By doing so, the city officials spared the petitioner from the need to completely re-file the special permit application.

"I would like the council to seriously think about allowing this," said Gately of the undersized 8,276 square foot lot by Prospect Street. "[Neighbors in that area] are going to be happy to see something there instead of a vacant corner lot that has to be cleared of garbage every few months."

Situated by the entryway into Woburn Center by the Peterson School, the vacant lot by Prospect Street was long the site a a three-family house that was gutted by a catastrophic fire that broke out in July of 2001.

Much to the consternation of city officials, the charred remnants of that building sat untouched for nearly two years, before Holland emerged in 2003 with plans for the redevelopment. Originally pitched as a 14-unit apartment complex, the council ultimately downscaled the size of the project during their special permit deliberations back in 2003.

Since obtaining that initial round of city permissions, Tarby on behalf of the landlord has petitioned the council seven times for two-year special permit continuances.

Citing the new proposal's decreased parking demand, the aldermen generally agreed the newest design constituted a minor modification.

However, Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Campbell disagreed with that sentiment due to the substantial construction delay. According to Campbell, the lone dissenter in the 8-to-1 approval, because the entire Woburn Center area has changed dramatically since the project was first permitted, she believed the special permit request should at least be referred to committee for further review.

"I agree the impact is far less, and I think it's great we're going from 10 units to four units. But a lot has happened in the past 16 years," she said.

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