WATERTOWN — Meeting in-person on Thursday, September 3, for the first time in the new Watertown Town Hall, the Planning and Zoning Commission conducted five Public Hearings, closing three of them and continuing two to the next meeting, pending additional information.
Controversy erupted over the third hearing, an application for a zoning map change to adjust the district boundary lines on Davis Street and Everitt Lane from R-30 to R-12.5. An affected property owner, John Everitt, called the requested change an attempt at spot zoning.
He asked how someone else could seek a zone change on his parcel without his agreement and said he was opposed to the change.
Attorney Franklin Pilicy, as applicant, explained the parcels appear to have been zoned R-12.5 initially, but were changed to R-30 at some point. Five of the six parcels are still listed as R-12.5 on the assessor’s cards. All five of those parcels are non-conforming as R-30 but conforming as R-12.5.
The current owner of 542 Davis St. purchased the property believing it to be zoned R-12.5. He said property owners were unaware of the zone change to R-12.5.
Mr. Everitt and several relatives who own parcels in the area were present and disputed that they were unaware of any zone change.
The fourth hearing on the agenda, for a site plan and special permit for a three-family dwelling at 542 Davis St., was tied to the third hearing on the zoning map change as three family dwellings are not allowed in the R-30 zone, but are allowed in the R-12.5 as a special permit. The parcel was one of the six lots that were to be rezoned to R-12.5.
As discussion on the zone map change continued, those speaking in opposition also spoke out against the idea of allowing a three-family dwelling in the neighborhood, which was really the subject of the fourth hearing and not the third. Chairman Richard Antonetti allowed that discussion to continue initially.
Mr. Everitt and others pointed out that there are no other three-family dwellings in the neighborhood, which consists of single-family homes. He suggested that any Republican member of the commission should recuse themselves on the grounds that the property owner of 542 Davis St., listed as EPM Development, was actually Erik Markiewicz, chairman of the Republican Town Committee.
Mr. Antonetti responded that members of the commission are appointed by Town Council and not by the party.
Land Use Administrator Mark Massoud reminded commissioners that the zone map change and the three-family dwelling were separate issues.
He noted that the applicant is in the process of making an additional application to the Inland Wetlands Commission on the dwelling, and he recommended tabling that hearing and application until such time as the Wetlands Commission makes a ruling.
Commissioner Ray Antonacci said it was clear that five of the six lots in question were definitely non-conforming under R-30 regulations because of their size. Chairman Antonetti repeated that the zone map change would bring those five parcels into conformity.
He stressed the commission was being asked to consider the zone change without the issue of the three-family dwelling, which is a separate matter.
The Public Hearing on the zone map change was closed, and the commission later voted to approve the zone map change. The hearing on the three-family dwelling was tabled.
The first Public Hearing on the agenda was an application by the estate of Patrick Graziano for a resubdivision on a parcel on 384 Litchfield Rd.
The resubdivision splits an existing parcel that is slightly less than 86 acres into two parcels: a 1.75-acre piece with an existing farmhouse and other structures, and an open parcel of 84 acres.
The hearing was closed and the application approved.
The second hearing on the agenda was an application by Henry Duhamel for the conversion of an existing two-family structure to a three-family structure at 404 Buckingham St.
Mr. Duhamel explained the building has two existing apartments above a commercial first floor.
He would like to convert part of the first floor to a small apartment.
Mr. Massoud said staff are still reviewing the application and the fire marshal has to issue a report as well. The hearing was continued to the next meeting and action on the application tabled.
The fifth hearing was for a site plan and special permit filed by JRD Properties for a 14,800-square-foot industrial building and outside storage at 192 Park Rd.
Civil engineer Allan Borghesi, representing the applicant, said the plan calls for a single development on the 65-acre parcel.
The intended tenant is Universal Body and Equipment, which currently leases a smaller space in Watertown.
The company makes and installs bodies for trucks.
Mr. Massoud said the plan appeared to be a sound one and “appropriate” for the site.
The hearing was closed and approval given later in the meeting.