A controversial Laundromat proposal in Beachmont Square snuck through Monday night during the last Council meeting of the year and after languishing in committee with nary a peep since early fall.
Ralph Torretta received unanimous approval from the Council Monday to locate a Laundromat in his building on Winthrop Avenue – a building that had previously been a Laundromat for years.
That, of course, wasn’t the controversy, though.
The controversy around the proposal – which seems to make a lot of sense on its own – stems around a similar proposal brought by the Pho Family earlier this year. They had proposed putting a Laundromat in an old social club on Winthrop Avenue directly across the street from Torretta’s building.
At the public hearing for that proposal, Torretta opposed the Pho proposal, saying he had intended on putting a Laundromat in his building but never got the financing or time to do it.
He also said that he had tried to negotiate with the Pho Family to lease his building, but those talks didn’t bear fruit.
By most observations, it simply appeared the Pho’s had beat him to the punch.
However, the Council denied the Pho Family’s proposal based on the fact that there was no parking.
Their attorney, Joe Cattoggio, indicated at the time that they were outraged and that there were issues of Civil Rights and favoritism going on.
Meanwhile, Torretta made a similar proposal for his building a few months later.
However, at his hearing he indicated that he had been misled by the Pho Family and deceived into delaying his proposal – a completely different version of events than he had previously outlined. He stated also on Monday night that he had been misled in the situation.
Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta also articulated the same different story during Torretta’s hearing. In the earlier meeting with the Pho’s, Penta said publicly that he preferred the Torretta’s to get the Laundromat because he had known them for years.
With all that as context, the Torretta proposal had seemingly ground to a halt. It had sat in committee for months with no action.
However, on Monday night, the Council acted upon the proposal and voted it in at the last meeting of the year. Had it not been voted upon, it would have died in committee.
Most councillors indicated that Torretta’s proposal was sounder than the Pho proposal because he had access to his father’s parking lot across the street. That lot is owned by the Torrettas and used for their bakery operation.
Ralph Torretta indicated he would have full access to that lot for his customers, and that seemed to be the hook that the Council hung their hats upon.
Councillor Richard Penta said that it was all about a non-conforming use, and he believes that Torretta’s non-conforming use will present fewer negatives.
“A non-conforming use is all about something being more intrusive or less intrusive,” he said. “My view was always the [Pho] use was more intrusive than the previous use – a social club. This is an easy vote for me…I’m 100 percent for it. When you look at other businesses and what’s more intrusive or not; that’s what a non-conforming use means…I will state that this is less intrusive than the previous use – a restaurant.”
However, not every councillor was in total agreement with that.
Councillors Charlie Patch, Tony Zambuto and John Powers indicated that they had voted for the Pho proposal and felt that the area could have supported two Laundromats.
“I am going to be consistent and vote in favor of this one,” Zambuto said. “I voted for the other proposal as well and I think the area could probably support two Laundromats.”
Attorney Cattoggio said that his clients were aware of the vote and they are discussing what to do about it. Currently, they are appealing the Council’s decision on their proposal in Suffolk Superior Court.