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Planners OK complex along Charles River

Posted by Sarah Thomas  October 14, 2010 11:09 AM

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After more than two hours of debate, the Watertown Planning Board voted 3-1 to allow a four-story residential complex along the Charles River at 140 Pleasant St. to move forward.

The development, to be built by the Cresset Group, would contain 44 apartments — studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units — and about 60 parking spaces. Four of the apartments would be rented at below-market rates.

‘‘We are in full compliance with all of the town’s ordinances for a project of this type,’’ said attorney William York, representing the developers. ‘‘This project is consistent with smart-growth principles, and will be an asset to the town.’’

Neighbors of the project objected because of traffic they expect it to generate. They said the project, which has been reduced in size, was still not in keeping with the scale of the neighborhood.

The plan next will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals in two weeks, where Planning Board members asked the developers to present information on storm-water runoff and lighting concerns raised at the meeting.

‘‘Residents who want to express more concerns about the plan are welcome to do so at the ZBA meeting,’’ said Watertown’s planning director Steve Magoon. ‘‘Or they are welcome to contact my office at any time.’’

The Planning Department had rejected an earlier proposal for 48 units because officials felt it was too large for the neighborhood. Since then, Cresset Group president Ed Nardi said, they worked closely with the town to address concerns. Drawings of the new plan, which has a lower roofline and is set back more from the street, can be viewed on the developer’s website, www.cressetgroup.com.

‘‘We have shrunk the edge of the building along Pleasant Street to 140 feet and added five pull-in parking bays in front to accommodate deliveries and drop-offs without interrupting the flow of traffic,’’ Nardi said. ‘‘We have also added much more landscaping, and will be improving the stone wall on the back of the property that faces the Charles River.’’

Nardi said the building would preserve the Charles River bike paths behind the property, and would be built using energy-saving appliances and an energy-efficient roof.
Cresset also commissioned a traffic study that concluded Pleasant Street should be minimally affected by the development.

Neighbors, however, had their doubts.

‘‘The traffic study was sloppy,’’ said Chuck Langenhagen, who lives in the apartment complex at 111 Pleasant St. ‘‘We who live on the road know that cars move much faster than the speeds used in calculations, and that there is little line of sight for stopping quickly if children run out. Also, during peak hours in the morning and evening, turning on and off the road is going to be a problem.’’

‘‘I live in a five-bedroom house and I have five cars,’’ said Pam Wright of 154 Pleasant St. ‘‘I take issue with the idea that there won’t be more cars at this property than developers are planning for, and parking will spill onto side streets.’’

Several residents also had questions about a light-and-shadow study, and lamented the fact that a large building would mean less light outside their windows.

‘‘I spent five years looking for my dream house, and I found it here in Watertown,’’ said Susan DeLong, 26 Conant Road. ‘‘And now that monstrosity is going to be right across from my windows. Appropriate for the area? I don’t think so.’’

However, several residents and officials praised the development, saying it would bring needed vitality and taxable property to the area.

‘‘I hope they approve it,’’ said David Odette of 100 Pleasant St. ‘‘As far as traffic goes, traffic’s been bad on Pleasant Street for 35 or 40 years. But they’ve made all the changes residents want, and I want to see the area get better.’’

‘‘If we want to provide services to our residents, we have to start increasing the tax base,’’ said Town Council president Mark Sideris.

‘‘We can’t keep saying no to developers,’’ he said, ‘‘or they’re eventually going to stop asking to build properties in Watertown, which will mean higher tax rates for all of us.’’

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

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