The North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) listened this week to an upcoming zoning variance request by Damian Szary at 50 Snow Hill Street. However, the Council did not vote on the proposal because the applicant had not yet received a refusal letter from Inspectional Services. Once a refusal letter is received, the applicant will appeal the refusal and present a final plan.
Mr. Szary is currently under agreement to purchase 50 Snow Hill Street and expects to close at the end of July. He indicated the building is currently dilapidated and a full renovation is planned, including an expansion of the headhouse to make space for a 3-bedroom unit on the upper floors. In addition, Mr. Szary said he plans to occupy the 2-bedroom unit on the lower floors.
Last December, Mr. Szary came before the neighborhood groups regarding 112 Prince St, and received NEWNC and NEWRA support for a renovation at that property. At the time, Mr. Szary said he was planning on moving into a unit at that building, but has since decided he needed more space and now plans on moving into 50 Snow Hill Street.
As part of the renovation, the building height will be increased from 36 feet to 45.8 feet. Current zoning is up to 55 feet. The refusal letter is expected to city the floor-area ratio (FAR) and the conditional use of the expanded penthouse. A shadow study has been performed and shared with abutters. Mr. Szary classified the effect as slight and mostly in the morning on the rear side of the building. A private roofdeck will be maintained for the owner of the top floors.
In the question and comment period of the meeting, Council member Mario Alfano expressed concerns about the proposal being a “value exchange” where one neighbor wins and another loses. “How does this help the neighborhood?” Mr. Szary responded that renovating a rundown building will add to the property value in the neighborhood, especially by the improved exterior frontage. He also thought that making the units into larger condos, suitable for families, would be better than having small apartment rentals. Council member Jorge Mendoza agreed, “Your property is as valuable your neighbors.” Fellow Council member Giancarlo Tiberi also spoke in support, saying “this is not an out-of-the-box renovation.”
An abutter at 49 Snow Hill, spoke against the additional height and expressed concern that Mr. Szary would flip the property. In answer to a question, Mr. Szary said the added floor will have a water view toward the Charlestown Bridge.
Michael Benitto at 59 Hull Street objected to the proposal because it will block the rear views of his building. In addition, he was concerned about the lack of sun and air circulation. Mr. Szary said that if neighbors intend to sue as a result of his renovation, then he would keep the building as a two-unit rental property.
Council member Donna Freni said, “I applaud your courage to develop in this economy. It looks like a tasteful renovation.” She noted a sensitivity to views, but does not see it obstructing much other than some trees in the back.
Francine Gannon, owner of 55 Hull St with family at 57 Hull Street, spoke in favor of the renovation and housing for family use. She noted that it is “very difficult to make a renovation on the hill.”
NEWNC President Stephen Passacantilli said the Council will vote at a future meeting after Mr. Szary has received and appealed a refusal letter with a final plan ready to go in front of the Zoning Board of Appeal.
In a separate announcement, President Stephen Passacantilli announced the Council has decided not to fill the remaining one-year term of Bobby DeCristoforo and will leave the 12th position open in Bobby D’s memory until the May 2011 NEWNC election.
NEWNC does not have an August meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 13th, 7pm at the Nazzaro Center. More information on NEWNC can be found at www.NEWNCBoston.org.