Riverside Condo Project Held in Committee

March 28, 2014
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Concerned citizens packed the Joseph A. DelGrosso City Council Chamber at the Zoning Sub-Committee meeting Monday evening to continue a public hearing on the possible construction of a residential condominium building on Thayer Avenue.

29 Thayer Avenue Development, LLC has asked the City Council for special permit to build a 42-unit condo building in the marina area near the Pines River in the Light Industrial District. Attorney James Cipoletta, who represents the developer, along with Civil Engineer Dan Salvo and Jennifer Conley, from Conley Associates Transportation Planning and Engineering, were in attendance to discuss issues such as parking and an increase in traffic.

Salvo reported that engineers decided to build 109 parking spaces for the proposed condo building and the marina, which will also be in control of the developer. Current parking requirements state that there must be two parking spaces per unit resulting in 84 spaces. An additional 25 spaces in a gravel lot will be constructed for additional vehicles and boat trailers for the marina. Salvo also said that they planned on building a three-foot sea wall around the property as well.

Another anticipated report was the traffic study done by Conley Associates, which performed the 2006 traffic study. Experts determined that during peak commuting hours (between 7-8 a.m. and 5-6 p.m.) there would be an increase in about 28 vehicle trips per hour on any given weekday in the most recent study (down 5-10 percent than the original 33 trips they accounted for in the 2006 study). The study was based on comparable data from hundreds of data pinpoints in similar developments. One variable that was left out of this study was the potential for casino traffic.

Cipoletta ended his presentation noting that the condo development was the best possible scenario for the area. He argued that if the Council did not approve the special permit, the community could see industrial properties like factories and warehouses or low-income apartment buildings.

Emotions ran high when the floor became open to residents and Council members. Residents had differing opinions on whether or not the luxury condo building would be the best addition to the neighborhood. While there were several people who said they would be potential buyers for the property, most of the crowded room was opposed to the condo development.

Ricci LaCentra and his wife, Loretta, live near the proposed development and say that the developers have not been good neighbors. Ricci LaCentra said his family has lived in the Riverside community for more than 60 years and that this would be detrimental to his neighborhood.

“They have been bad neighbors from the start,” said LaCentra.

His primary concerns are the increase in traffic in his neighborhood along with potential sewage issues. Adding 42 units would increase the sewage flow in the aging system. He has collected 149 signatures of Riverside residents against the proposed development.

Another argument against the development comes from School Committee member, Donna Wood Pruitt. She argued that the development would not be marketed to empty nesters, like the developers suggested, and instead would be ideal for families with single parents.

“There’s a day care center nearby and a park. It would be perfect for a family with small children,” Wood said, noting that the schools cannot take an influx of more children.

The School Committee is dealing with crowded schools, and she said it cannot handle more students in overflowing classrooms. Superintendent Paul Dakin is also openly against the Thayer Avenue condo development.

However, Councillors Ira Novoselsky, Richard Penta, and Council President Tony Zambuto spoke out in favor of the development.

Councillor John Powers who represents that Ward, said he, like his neighbors, opposes the condo development, and said he would not be voting for the special permit.

As soon as he made that announcement, the room erupted in applause.

Councillor Stephen Reardon said he would hold the request in committee until Councillor Charlie Patch, who was absent from the meeting, returned.

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