Board approves Farrelly building lot

WESTFIELD – The third time was indeed the charm, and required, to gain approval of a special permit to subdivide land on Brookline Avenue last night, when the Planning Board voted to create a new building lot.
The property, formerly a family-owned greenhouse and florist business, was purchased by Noble Hospital in 1992 from the Michael J. Bemben Trust with the plan to create additional employee parking. The hospital hired an environmental firm to perform hazardous material mitigation to remove chemicals used in association with the greenhouse business. The greenhouse and accessory structures were later demolished to clear the lot that now contains only a single-family structure.
The hospital, through its real estate division, Silvermill Realty Corp., applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a dimensional special permit that would have allowed the hospital to subdivide the property into three lots, a proposal that was withdrawn because of vehement opposition from neighborhood residents.
The property was sold to Gerry Farrelly, owner of Farrelly Construction LLC, on Feb. 22, 2012 for $128,500. Farrelly is a nearby resident, living at 60 Mill St., a lot located at the corner of Brookline Avenue.
Last August, Farrelly submitted a petition to the Planning Board, seeking to create two new lots from the mother parcel under a city “infill” ordinance enacted by the City Council in late 2011.
The City Council approved Article IV, Section 4-20 (the infill ordinance) of the city Code of Ordinances on Nov. 3, 2011 that gives the Planning Board authority to grant special petitions to create infill lots, if the petition meets the standards set by the City Council
The ordinance allows residential development on lots that were once legal building lots, but became non-conforming as the city changed zoning requirements. Residents often purchase two adjoining lots with the idea of holding one lot as an investment for future sale or for construction of a second house for a family member, but were stymied by changes to the zoning codes that generally increase the lot area requirement.
The Planning Board narrowly rejected Farrelly’s special permit petition to allow the creation of two additional residential lots on Brookline Avenue at its Sept. 4 meeting. The majority of the seven members voted to grant a special permit under the city’s infill ordinance approved by the City Council last fall, but failed to gain the super majority of five votes required for a special permit. The vote denying the special permit was 4-3.
Last night, the board voted on a new petition submitted by Farrelly seeking to divide the property into just two lots, a proposal that faced no resident opposition.
The Planning Board had to first approve the new petition as being “significantly different” from the one that was rejected in September. Under state Law and city ordinance, the board cannot reconsider a special permit petition that has been rejected for at least two years.
Board member William Onyski made the motion substantiating that the two-lot petition does meet that criterion of being significantly different. The board voted 7-0 to accept that motion, then moved to discussion of the merits of the property subdivision.
The lot with the existing house has a frontage of 198 feet and a total area of 1.34 acres, which the new lot has frontage of 80 feet and an area of just over one half acre.
Consultant Robert Levesque, of R. Levesque Associates, who presented details of the new petition, said that many of the nearby lots have less frontage and about the same acreage.
“The plan before you to night is to create two lots which is more palatable to the board members and residents who had a concern about density,” Levesque said. “The average frontage of surrounding lots is 60 feet and the area is three-quarters of an acre. This proposal does meet the current requirements and is different enough from the last one.”
Three residents spoke in favor of the petition to create an additional lot, none spoke in opposition. The Planning Board members voted 7-0 to approve the special permit.

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