Residents in the Sewall Street neighborhood pleaded with the Zoning Board of Appeals last week to reject Middleton developer Mario Zepai’s petition for a variance from parking requirements to enable him to build a single-family house on a 3,800 square foot lot at 118 Sewall St. The board did reject Zepai’s application but for technical reasons rather than the concerns and issues raised by neighbors during a public hearing.
Building Commissioner Luis Carvagnaro spoke in favor of Zepai’s application, calling what the builder was asking for miniscule. “He’s asking to move parking to the neighboring lot to meet the parking requirement of two off-street spaces for a single-family home,” said Carvagnaro, who acknowledged that city ordinances do not allow building on the neighboring lot because there was once a swimming pool located there.
“To me, in my eyes, that makes no sense,” said Carvagnaro.
The building commissioner said he had spoken with neighbors, 45 of whom signed a petition opposing Zepai’s plan, about concerns about drainage, flooding, traffic and parking. Carvagnaro said a single-family house would not make a difference in either drainage or traffic. And he said the house would bring new tax revenue to the city. Carvagnaro also addressed the size of the lot, which neighbors felt was too small for a house. He listed a number of neighboring properties which were a similar size or smaller.
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, who represents the neighborhood, opposed Zepai’s application. “I’m here tonight to ask for your help,” he told the board, “asking for the people of Revere for your help.”
Powers said to allow a house to be built on a 3000-square-foot lot in the city is ludicrous. “It just shouldn’t happen,” he said.
Powers also said he had been in the neighborhood when there was flooding on Sewall Street. “The water was four, five, six inches deep. Now we’re looking to what? Make it a little worse?” he asked the board.
Powers said the people in the neighborhood are hard-working people who pay their taxes. “They need your help,” he stressed.
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna also spoke in opposition to Zepai. McKenna said she has been trying to help Sewall Street residents with flooding issues for years. “And now they are having sewerage problems because of the water,” she said.
McKenna said if you pave over a green space with grass, you’ll have more water. “If we open a can of worms, every single small lot that is non buildable will become buildable because we allowed someone to build,” she said.
John Stamatopoulos, who lives at 15 Sewall St., said the neighborhood is densely settled and the lot Zepai wants to use for parking, a side yard, is the only green space on the street where drainage is an issue. Stamatopoulos also said the city’s building code states that no construction is allowed after 1994 on a lot that had prior structures, including pools or decks. “According to the city’s code, this lot is not buildable,” he said. “If we’re not going to follow the codes, why do we have them?”
John Powers of 4 Sewall St. said he thought the fact that Zepai’s request ran up against city codes would put an end to the plan. He also described the lot Zepai wants to develop as undersized. Powers acknowledged that other houses are on similar sized lots but added that the infrastructure underneath, particularly water pipes, has not kept up with the growth. He said if the building continues it could lead to a public safety problem.
“We’re all from Revere,” Powers told the board. “When you’re on your way home tonight look to your left and to your right. If you see a big, long yard take a good look at it because it could be a house tomorrow.”
ZBA Chairman Michael Tucker said officials had been discussing Zepai’s request for a variance all week. Tucker said zoning rules require all existing structures to conform to the parking requirement before any lot is deemed buildable, which Zepai’s lot does not. “So, we can’t vote on this,” said Tucker. “The zoning doesn’t require us to give a variance.”
Tucker also said the ZBA had been told Zepai’s request to use a vacant lot for parking is a moot point. “The term vacant means no structure existed on the lot, which it has,” said Tucker. “Granting of this variance would negate and nullify the intent and purpose of the HD overlay district. We can’t go against the ordinance.”
The board voted unanimously to deny the variance.