Zoning Board OK’s Lafayette Village changes

The city’s vacating of 13 feet of Dock Street will allow the developer to project Meridia Lafayette Village’s living space over an additional 10 parallel parking spaces on the street.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday night approved variances and a preliminary site plan but Capodagli Property Company will return later this year for final site plan approval after the plan is reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The application passed by a 6-0-1 vote, with Paul Braxton abstaining.

The Planning Board already approved the 115-unit rental development in August, however, issues have since been raised by DEP about a view shed for the waterfront development permit and a resolution had to be approved locally before getting the OK from DEP. Also, density and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) requirements were changed when a revised Central Business District (CBD) Redevelopment Plan was adopted just two months ago, and so variances that did not come up previously are now required. Variances were solely a function of the redevelopment plan changing, said attorney John DeNoia, adding that DEP’s tweaks will be incorporated into the site plan and they will return to the Zoning Board for final site plan approval later this year.

Certain projects got caught up in the process of revising the Redevelopment Plan, said Paul Grygiel of Phillips Price Grygiel, the board’s planner. That process, which took place over the course of a year, consolidated numerous revisions in the old plan and was meant to clean it up, not delay projects, he said. DEP is unable to approve a permit under the previous Planning Board approval.

Lafayette Village’s first living level — above two levels of parking — would jut out over Dock Street, also allowing the floor plan to be adjusted and shelter over the 10 parallel parking spaces on Dock Street, which will become the applicant’s property. There is no change to the mix of units but there still are some issues with two-bedroom units that fall short of the Redevelopment Plan required minimum of 800 square feet.

The original plan of 117 parking spaces for 115 units would have met the one-per-unit requirement, however, the revised redevelopment plan now calls for no less than 1.25 spaces per unit, which would require 144 spaces for 115 units. Configuration under the modified plan offers 119 spaces on two floors of parking, plus the 10 street spaces, for 129 overall spaces — 15 short of the required 144. Planner John McDonough argued that the proximity to bus and rail access, and being within a state-designated Transit Village, should allow for the variance.

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Units are more rectangular and proportional whereas before they were narrow and loft-like spaces, said architect Yogesh Mistry, who added that some 44 two-bedroom units still need to be massaged to get to 800 square feet. In all, there will be 60 two-bedroom units, 25 one-bedroom units and 30 one-bedrooms with an office (which will not have a door or a closet, to discourage the potential creation of another bedroom). The Main Street slab elevation will be 15 feet, he said, compared with the flood zone elevation of 13 feet and mechanicals will be located above flood levels.

McDonough said the differences in the approved plan and this new one are density and FAR. The new application is better than the one approved last year, with density of 167 units per acre, lower than the previous 186 units per acre but still needing a variance since it’s above the allowed 100 per acre.

Board member James Pellettiere asked whether reducing the number of two-bedrooms was considered to avoid two-bedroom units that are too small, questioning whether more units are being built than downtown can handle. “We don’t want vacant units because we want a certain number of two-bedrooms,” he said.

Demand for small units is increasing, McDonough said, with the population buying more into the type of community than spatial elements of the apartments. People want walkability and access to transit, he said. The Capodagli firm, which already built Meridia Grand and is constructing Meridia Water’s Edge, would not build and invest in the property without thinking they could market the units, DeNoia said.

Asked by Zoning Board Chairman William Hering for a potential timeline on the project, DeNoia said that if approvals get through DEP in two months, they would return to the Zoning Board in August for final site plan approval, and hope to be in the ground by year’s end.

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