Westfield Newsroom

Baystate Noble seeks to expand parking with zoning change

The house at 91 W. Silver Street which Baystate Noble is seeking to demolish to expand its parking lot. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – The Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing on Wednesday on Baystate Noble’s request for a special permit to expand its parking lot onto the property at 91 W. Silver Street.
Rob Levesque of R. Levesque Associates introduced the request, stating that the hospital has a purchase and sale agreement to buy the house, which is adjacent to the hospital’s parking lot, and seek to demolish it and put in 43 new parking spaces.
Levesque said currently the hospital has a non-conforming use permit in the residential area, which they seek to expand to the adjacent property which is zoned Residential A. He said the plan would be to include a landscape buffer across the front, and possibly islands in the parking lot.
In response to a question from the board, Levesque said the use of the hospital would remain the same, but the goal would be to accommodate more parking.
David A. Rosinski, director of engineering at Baystate Noble, said currently the hospital shuttles employees from the Amelia Park parking lot, which they would continue to do, but the new parking area would allow them to get employees further from the front door, and patients closer.
“You’re extending non-conforming use into a house which is a conforming use. You’re asking us to downgrade a house from Residential to Commercial,” said Martin Newman, chair of the ZBA. He added that there is nothing in the ordinance that allows that extension.
Levesque responded that he had previously held that same conversation with city planner Jay Vinskey, and the hospital is seeking to demolish the single family home.
“There are no provisions in your regulations for a hospital zone,” Levesque said.

Rob Levesque of R. Levesque Assoc. (2nd from right) and David A. Rosinski, director of engineering at Baystate Noble (far right) presented the request to the ZBA board on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a little novel using the extension across the border like that,” Newman said.
ZBA member Sofia Bitzas Williams said the hospital could accomplish it with a use variance and an ANR (‘approval not required’ plan under subdivision control law).
“In discussion with Vinskey, we didn’t see anything prohibiting this,” Levesque said.
“Destruction is not alteration or construction. You’re still converting this from residential to non-residential,” said Newman.
“I don’t think the zoning ordinance covers this. It’s murky at best,” said ZBA member Gary J. Bacchiocchi.
Levesque asked if this was something the board should discuss with the law department.
“If you have the ANR recorded, that would resolve this,” said ZBA member Richard “Kick” Sullivan, III, adding that the zoning ordinance prefers to have things come into compliance rather than out of compliance.
Newman then opened the public hearing to comments from the dozen or so neighbors in attendance at the meeting.
Brian Bonner of 90 W. Silver Street commented that the hospital would be hard-pressed to put in 43 parking spaces on the property. He said there is a 25-30 foot drop off in the back, and wetlands behind the house. He said the former owner built a retaining wall himself in the back of the property.
Levesque said the proposed parking area is 15-20 feet from the slope, and the wetland below is 53 feet away, well over the protection standard. He said a drain for runoff would be installed in the parking area.

Zoning Board of Appeals members Sofia Bitzas Williams, Martin Newman, chair, Richard “Kick” Sullivan, IIII, and Gary J. Bacchiocchi.

George Layng of 92 W. Silver Street, said his family, who were present at the meeting, lives right across the street from the house in question. He said they already put up with plows at night, surgical gloves blowing onto their lawn, and smoke from employees drifting onto their property.
“This will be a little bit more of the same. A little bit more of the same for the hospital that won’t solve your parking problems. I’m tired of looking at parking lots. If it does go in, I don’t want to look at it,” Layng said.
Layng’s wife, Heather Dunfee, added that due to having found a hypodermic needle, white surgical gloves and blue surgical gloves in her yard, she can’t let her kids play in the yard. She said there are people hanging around all hours of the night, and the plows at night make so much noise, the children can’t sleep. “There has to be a better solution,” Dunfee said. She also said she has found hospital records in her yard.
Rosinski, who said he was also the director of facilities at the hospital, said that keeping up with trash is a significant challenge for the hospital. “One of the biggest challenges is when visitors empty their garbage,” he said.
Rosinski also said that some patients who are discharged from the emergency department are angry, and might toss their records. He assured the neighbors that all hospital records are sealed, and that medical waste is carefully disposed of according to regulations.

The family of Heather Dunfee and George Layng, who live right across from the house the hospital is seeking to demolish.

Rosinski said currently a landscaper comes twice a week, and the grounds crew takes care of the property daily. He also said cars in the neighborhood park in the lot.
 Evan Kreke at 96 W. Silver Street agreed that trash is an ongoing issue, and asked why not put more barrels out.
Rosinski said the hospital has a trash barrel at every entrance.
“I’m not necessarily against it. I would like to see if you can do hedges all along West Silver Street,” said Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise.
Levesque responded that the application before the board was for operational issues, but they were open to making the situation a little better for the neighbors.
“Beyond this particular house, there’s another house right next door. Whenever you’re at the end of zoning, you get to what I call ‘zoning creep,’ “ Newman said. He added that it would be important to have a significant buffer plus plantings for the neighbor next door and the neighbors across the street.
“I think it’s a fairly extreme thing, knocking down a house and putting in a parking lot. These houses are nice family homes,” Newman added. He said as the application sits right now, he couldn’t approve it. The board agreed to continue the public hearing to May 17 and seek the city solicitor’s opinion.
After the meeting, Layng said his feelings hadn’t changed. “How do you balance the character of the neighborhood with the needs of the hospital,” he said.
In a discussion outside the meeting with Levesque and Rosinski, the family said they would like to see the hedges currently in front of the hospital by the traffic lights continue all down West Silver Street.

To Top