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In Split Vote, Neighborhood Council Opposes Zoning for Vesuvio Restaurant at 420 Commercial Street

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After an hour long Monday night heated debate between the applicants and abutters, the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) voted 5-4 (4-4 with the NEWNC President voting to break the tie) to oppose a zoning variance request at 420 Commercial Street to allow a proposed Italian restaurant named Vesuvio. The location is at the former Segway tour location, across from the 7-Eleven at the intersection of Hanover and Commercial Streets.

The owners of 420 Commercial Street (Comserv LLC), have applied to the Boston Zoning Board to change the legal occupancy from gas station to restaurant and offices including seasonal outdoor seats and take-out. The purpose of legalizing a restaurant is in preparation for anticipated eatery, Vesuvio, operated by North Ender Damien DiPaola, of Carmelina’s and Vito’s Tavern.

Presenting for the property owner, Nicole Griffith / Comserv LLC, was Attorney Daniel Toscano. Although this proceeding was only about the zoning, also in attendance was expected tenant Damien DiPaola, represented by Attorney William Ferullo. The proposed restaurant Vesuvio would still have to obtain a C.V. and liquor license after the zoning change.  Zoning variances are required since the property is located in a Multifamily Residential/Local Services Subdistrict where restaurants over 1,000 square feet are forbidden by current zoning regulations.

The proponent reviewed the history of the location which has included multiple uses over the decades, including retail, restaurant, gas station and most recently as headquarters for Boston by Segway which left the property about a year ago. A repeated point was the difficulty in obtaining a retail tenant that was not a restaurant at the location. Notably, the gas tanks were removed in 2008 as part of an environmental cleanup.  The proposed restaurant would have about 54 seats (including ~30 outside) and a dining bar. The applicant agreed not have amplified music outside or rooftop tables. The proposed restaurant hours would be an 11 p.m. closing on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends.

Trustee Steve Venezia from an abutting property at 414 Commercial Street presented their opposition to the proposed restaurant highlighting the following concerns (1) increased late night noise, (2) increase in garbage, rodents and odor, (3) traffic congestion / safety issues and (4) questions about the expected new tenant. Abutters said the end of Hanover Street is mostly residential rather than commercial and questioned the public need for a restaurant at the site. The applicants countered that the corner is often dark and deserted, saying that a restaurant would activate the area.

The council initially voted 4-4 tie on a motion to oppose the application. In such cases, the NEWNC President breaks the tie. Due to confusion about the wording of the President’s vote, the council voted 7-1 to take a 2nd vote on the application. A similar situation occurred during the 2nd vote and was later clarified by the President in the meeting, resulting in a 5-4 vote opposing the zoning change to include restaurant use at the location.

The above video includes both sides of the debate and the vote, including extended public comments from the packed room at the Nazzaro Community Center. This application will also be heard on Thursday, June 12th at NEWRA (7pm, Nazzaro Center) before going to the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals on June 17th where the final decision will be made at City Hall.

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Bill Ferullo says:

Matt,

I don’t use Facebook so I am sending this in your comment space. I disagree with you choice of headline for the Vesuvius story. NEWNC’s vote should be reported as it was voted, 4 members voted in favor of the motion to oppose the application for zoning relief and five members vote against the motion. Therefore the motion did not pass. No other motions were voted and the council went on to other business. A review of your tape of the meeting clearly bears this out. A motion is made “TO OPPOSE APPLICATION”. Four members voted in favor of the motion and four members voted against the motion. The deciding vote was by the President at 1:08 on the tape. He clearly says “I vote to oppose the motion”. I pointed out that with 5 members against the motion and 4 in favor the motion did not pass. After a motion for reconsideration, the members again voted 4 in favor and 4 against the motion to oppose the application. At 1:11:20 on the tape, the deciding vote was again cast by the President saying “I vote to deny the motion”. Once again I informed the President that the motion did not pass with 4 vote in favor and 5 votes against.

The fact that the President, at the end of the meeting, says he intended to vote in favor of the motion when he said he that he was against the motion, does not change the vote and once the vote is cast and the organization moves on to other business that vote is final and a member cannot change his/her vote. I will not attempt to discuss the general rule that no one can vote on a question in which he has a direct or pecuniary interest nor calling the first motion made by a member rather than the second motion. If an organization says it follows its by-laws and Robert’s Rules of Order, it should follow them.

Bill Ferullo