Councillor suggests moving proposed facility to McKinley School
A group of more than 40 residents from the Oak Island neighborhood turned out for this week’s City Council meeting to ask for help with a new development, an educational building, proposed for 84 Arcadia St. The item was not on the council’s agenda, but Ward 5 Councillor John Powers filed a late motion proposing that the council request that local attorney Gerry D’Ambrosio, who represents the developer, come before the council to discuss the project.
Powers said he urged the development team to hold a neighborhood meeting to share the plan with residents. Those who attended the meeting learned that the development would have 24 beds for homeless people and those returning from detox. Residents were also told that it is a development being done by right and there was nothing the neighborhood could do to stop it.
“I told the attorney I wanted a meeting and they had a meeting down at Santorini’s,” said Powers, adding that because of the meeting some residents assumed he was in favor of the development.
“I would never be in favor of putting a homeless shelter there,” said Powers, who also mentioned the support he had given Oak Island, particularly with flooding and drainage issues.
“I’ll work with the city’s legal department to stop this project,” vowed Powers, who suggested using the McKinley School as an alternative site.
Powers also said that petitions opposing the project that were going around were being circulated for political reasons. “I suspect they want to run for a seat on the council,” said Powers.
According to Atty. Gerry D’Ambrosio, the facility being proposed is not a sober house or a detox facility, but restorative housing for homeless people with mental health issues.
“The goal is to provide psychiatric care, drug counseling when needed, and vocational training, where they can get treatment and allow them to better their lives,” stated the attorney.
According to past police reports by Oak Island residents, there are homeless people currently living by the railroad tracks in an encampment behind Arcadia Street.
“There’s a screening process for admission where every participant must be vetted for any criminal background and will provide 100% preference for Revere residents,” said the attorney.
City Council President Patrick Keefe told the emotional audience that the issue was not in front of the council. He also explained that the Dover Amendment, a state law, exempts agricultural, religious and educational developments from zoning requirements and regulations. “All 11 of us have zero say in this,” said Keefe. “I’d love to have your voices heard, but understand this is not a council issue.”
Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto agreed negotiating with the developer is the best way forward. “We can’t solve this issue unless we can convince the developer to take a different track,” said Zambuto, adding that he is not optimistic.
One Arcadia Street resident summed up the feelings of the neighborhood. “We agree Revere needs this type of facility but not in a densely settled residential neighborhood,” he told the council.
In the Spring of 2022, the proposed project, which consists of one-third of an acre of land, was originally proposed for four residential townhouses and a marina which was eventually shot down by the residents.
A resident who lives close by the site at 51 Arcadia St. said it feels like the buck is being passed. He said the building inspector and the zoning board can reject the project. “And when the city is sued, I expect the city to fight for us,” he said.
Ned Almeida of 40 Arcadia St. said that over the past few years the neighborhood has gotten younger and is now full of children who are always outside. “A facility like this is a good idea somewhere, but our neighborhood is not set up for it,” said Almeida. “You don’t have a vote, but I would like to hear you have our backs. It would make us more powerful.”
Doug Brecker of 15 Arcadia St., who is also a developer, said residents could take a stand with a legal challenge. He offered to spearhead that challenge and invited neighbors to join him.
“You can file litigation and I hope you get what you want,” said Keefe.
“They will have to follow reasonable building and zoning requirements, but the Dover Amendment allows them to do this,” said Keefe. “You asked for the support of the City Council. We can’t retaliate, but we can pick up the phone and say, ‘Is this the best idea?’”
The council voted unanimously in favor of having D’Ambrosio come to a meeting to discuss the project. Councillors also unanimously approved Rizzo’s motion to send a letter to D’Ambrosio outlining the objections to the project.