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Zaccheo gets permit to create parking for school redevelopment project

Recorder file photo
The Montague Zoning Board of Appeals approved Mark Zaccheo’s plans for creating parking for his planned apartment complex at the former Montague Center School.

Recorder file photo The Montague Zoning Board of Appeals approved Mark Zaccheo’s plans for creating parking for his planned apartment complex at the former Montague Center School.

MONTAGUE — With a special permit to create parking from the Planning Board, the Montague Center School redevelopment has cleared the last major hurdle in a two-year run to reality.

Mark Zaccheo brought his apartment proposal to the town in November of 2011, the only respondent to the third request for proposals issued by the planning department and Board of Selectmen in an effort to shift the vacant town property into the tax rolls.

In September of 2012, after the proposal had been a frequent topic of discussion at public selectmen’s meetings and an April special town meeting, abutters and other village residents began to strenuously oppose the development.

A group of abutters have sued Zaccheo and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The lawsuit remains in Housing Court, the next pretrial conference scheduled for August. The variance has since become moot, as voters at the latest town meeting changed the standard for a minimum apartment size waiver from variance to special permit and shrank the minimum floor area from 700 to 500 square feet. Zaccheo has since updated his plan to put all apartments within the new minimum.

The latest special permit allows Zaccheo to increase the impervious surface of the lot beyond the statutory 20 percent, to approximately 30 percent, in order to provide enough resident parking to comply with another provision of the bylaws.

Inspector of Buildings David Jensen called the percent-based rule arbitrary and not particularly good.

The Montague Center School sits on 3.3 acres. An increase in impervious surface from 16 to 30 percent equates to 0.46 acres.

Member Bruce Young described the impact as negligible.

“We’re talking about 0.4 acres of land,” Young said. “If he had 400 acres he could add 80 acres and we wouldn’t even be here.”

The discussion touched on drainage and runoff management plans already approved by the Conservation Commission.

Residents in attendance, including Montague Center Fire Chief John Greene, raised concerns over on-street parking near the development. Greene said parking should be banned on both sides to keep the street clear for fire engines. The board said on-street parking is up to the Highway Department.

Responding to concerns over water pressure raised by residents at the last hearing, before the Zoning Board of Appeals, Montague Center Water Commissioner Gary Dion said Montague Center does not have a water pressure problem.

Several residents at the ZBA hearing said their water pressure is poor, the problem appears to be spreading, and they’re worried the 22 apartments would further strain the system. Dion said the district’s pumps run as needed, are not running full time now, and run more as more water is drawn.

Young asked that berms be added around the trash bin to prevent waste runoff and that Zaccheo present a plan to limit salt use on the parking lot and walkways in winter.

The special permit passed unanimously.

Speaking before the hearing, Zaccheo said the special permit would be the last he needed, but building permits remain and he and the town have not yet made a purchase and sale agreement.

“This should be the last hurdle in terms of zoning and variances, but it’s really kind of the beginning in terms of building permits,” Zaccheo said. “Taking too much time trying to figure out when the purchase happens and all that doesn’t really make sense until you have the ability to do the development.”

Zaccheo said the process has been slow and costly.

“It might take me a month to get to where I’ve gotten in two years,” he said. “It’s not totally uncommon for a big commercial project like a Walmart or something, it can easily take two to five years, but a typical residential project often has a couple-month time line.”

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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