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Watertown planners grant permit for 65-unit apartment complex, commercial space

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 14, 2013 07:10 AM

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Watertown’s Pleasant Street neighborhood will soon see another development with apartments and businesses even though many residents living there spoke against the proposal.

Watertown Planning Board members granted developers a special permit Wednesday to build a 65-unit complex at 60 Howard St. and 45 Bacon St., where Circle Supply used to operate.

Plans call for the demolishing of the existing two buildings and addition of nearly 10,500 square feet of commercial space, including an 80-seat restaurant; as well as apartments ranging from studios to three-bedrooms; a roof deck; and nearly 150 parking spaces.

The decision came even after dozens of residents attended the Wednesday board meeting to protest the development. Many railed against how the proposal would add more units to a neighborhood already crowded with hundreds of units in new complexes, approved in the past few years by the board.

The push on the so-called Pleasant Street corridor, which runs west of Watertown Square along the Charles River, has been in keeping with a vision by town planners that sees it changing from an area of industrial companies and warehouses to one with more apartments, condos, and stores.

But after residents have continuously bemoaned the developments in the past year or so, leading also to the defeat of a 14-unit condominium complex at 192 Pleasant St. this spring, even planning officials said it might be time to change the vision.

Planning Board chairman John B. Hawes Jr. said the spate of new developments approved in the past few years were partly because the economy has bounced back. As an influx of developers with capital sought approval, locals may not have realized just how many massive developments were being proposed, he said.

“It seems like there’s more work that needs to be done,” he said at the hearing. “I think it’s time to tweak the Pleasant Street corridor plan.”

Many residents protested the developments popping up in their neighborhood, noting that traffic was already making their daily commute unbearable. One woman said she was considering moving to another community.

“The timing couldn’t be worse with this project,” said Mary Ann Mulligan, a Falmouth Road resident. “We’re adding a total of 849 units to our half-mile neighborhood… If you’re wondering why residents are concerned and are here tonight, that’s why. It’s way too much in way too short a time in way too dense an area.”

Many said that although the proposal Wednesday itself might be worthy of approval, adding another development would just make the situation worse.

“It’s just too much too quick,” said Ian Clark, another Falmouth Road resident. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, but we shouldn’t do it now.”

John Yobaccio, who lives next to the proposed development, said his backyard has already lost all the sunlight from the Haartz-Mason complex that is under construction behind his house.

“Now you’re going to add an additional 65 units right to my side,” Yobaccio said. “I feel like my house is really not going to have any value any more sitting between these two complexes.”

However, some residents said they supported the project, noting that if the proposal failed, developers could bypass much of local zoning to build a more massive complex under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law.

“I feel like punishing this developer for the opinions of past developments isn’t really fair,” said Sean Graham, a Howard Street resident. “This one is not like those other massive projects.”

Developers will also soon present plans for a 24-unit mixed-use complex at 33 Mount Auburn St., where a vacant building that used to house Port Oil sits. Developers hope to raze the Port Oil building to construct one four-story structure with 24 residential units, nearly 2,000 square feet of retail and office space, and 36 parking spaces, planning officials said.

For more information, visit the Planning Board’s website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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