It came down to a roll of the dice – a bit of a gamble – and most City Councillors weren’t willing to call the bluff of an Everett developer who has plans to build 261 apartment units at a plot of land next to the BJ’s store on Ward Street.
The situation was not so different than when the BJ’s came into town in so much as councillors were once again faced with choosing between two unpalatable options.
In this case, it was either approve a scaled-down 261-unit apartment complex, or stand aside and watch as the developer possibly takes action on previously-approved plans to build an 11-story, 281-unit apartment tower. Everett attorney Anthony Rossi and Everett investor/scrapyard owner William Thibeault are proposing the venture.
In the end, councillors voted 8-3 to allow the 261-unit complex that also features fewer two-bedroom units and more one-bedroom units – thus potentially reducing the impact of school children on the school system.
“I know some councillors want to take the position that this will never get built and this piece of land will sit vacant for the next 40 years,” said Mayor Dan Rizzo, a proponent of the amended project. “That might happen. I’m not the developer…We have to try the best we can to control the numbers of students going into our public school system. If the City Council wants to gamble…it could essentially end up with 281 units and an affordable housing project the Council might not like to entertain.”
However, what it boiled down to was whether councillors really believed that the developers had the resources and wherewithal to make an honest attempt at building the apartment tower.
Some were ready to take that gamble.
“It comes down to me whether or not this will be built as first proposed,” said Councillor Stephen Reardon, chair of the Zoning Committee. “I don’t believe it will be built. I don’t believe the economics are there. I believe the only way anything will be built is if we let them have this revision. I’m prepared to take that gamble. I don’t think it’s much of a risk at all.”
Added Ward Councillor Arthur Guinasso, who represents the area and was against the project, “Five years have gone by and no building. These people could have built by right. They didn’t, and there was even a market there. They’ve revised it. Big deal. Who cares? That’s only 50 more rooms…I represent the people and I’m not going to let them down.”
Councillor John Powers also voiced opposition to the plan.
Nevertheless, a majority of the Council wasn’t prepared to gamble, feeling that it was imperative to accept the scaled-down project.
“I want people to be aware that we’re not here to vote on apartments, to say, ‘Yes, we want a four-story apartment building,’” said Councillor Jessica Giannino. “I’d rather see a four-story, one-bedroom apartment complex as opposed to an 11-story, two bedroom, apartment complex. Our school system can’t handle it. It would be a mess.”
Said Councillor Tony Zambuto, “This was a no-brainer. To not vote for this is irresponsible.”
Added Council President Richard Penta, “It baffles me how you could be against this.”
Said Councillor Charlie Patch, “I’m not a gambling man and I don’t think the schools can afford to take a gamble on this.”
Concluded Councillor Brian Arrigo, “Unfortunately the City has a standing agreement and it has to hold up its end of the bargain. I think the mayor has done a good job in trying to lessen the impact of this.”