The owners of the Clean Joe/Board Up Kings building at 7 Franklin St. can rest a little bit easier, as the Zoning Board of Appeals last week overturned a controversial decision by the city’s building inspector.
The building has housed the Clean Joe business, which is managed by Josef Koch of JEK Enterprises, since 2018. The business cleans out homes and businesses affected by fires, floods and other property damage. JEK Enterprises has been before the ZBA several times this year trying to clear up a ruling by the building inspector stating that the business is illegally operating as a 24/7 business and that it is not a grandfathered use in the Neighborhood Business (NB) zone. Prior to 2018, the building was home for decades to Madison Associates, a small manufacturer and distributor of composite steel.
At last week’s ZBA hearing, Attorney Larry Simeone, representing JEK Associates, once again noted that there is nothing in the Revere zoning ordinances that establish just what a 24/7 business is. Several neighbors and city councillors spoke in favor of overturning the building inspector’s ruling, while several other abutters countered that the business creates undue noise and disturbance during nights and weekends.
“The evidence that is before [the ZBA] does not support the decision made by the building inspector,” said Simeone. “In fact, there is no evidence for which the building inspector has come forth with to substantiate his decision. The decision he stated was that neither the NB zone nor any assorted grandfathered use of the property supports … the structures or premises being utilized for a 24/7 business operation. [In] a review of the Revere zoning ordinance, as well as all the ordinances in the city of Revere, you will find that no definition of the term 24/7 business or operation is found in the zoning ordinance.”
Simeone further stated that there is nothing in the zoning ordinance that deals with the typical hours of operation for a business in the NB district.
During the public hearing, several people spoke in favor of JEK Enterprises and Clean Joe’s, including employees, people who used the business and city councillors.
“What I see now is a very well-run business,” said Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo. “He provides a service to the community, and he does it respectfully. I’m not sure why this has been litigated endlessly; it’s not a detriment to the community, and he has gone out of his way to help the community.”
City Council President Anthony Zambuto noted that he spent a number of years chairing the council’s zoning subcommittee and helped create many of the zoning ordinances on the city books. He said he is bothered that the building inspector was citing conditions that don’t exist anywhere in the zoning ordinances.
However, several residents who live near 7 Franklin St. argued that the business is a hardship on the neighborhood. Franklin Street resident John Riccio said there are differences on what kind of business is allowed in a general business zone and what is allowed in the NB zone. “The major difference is that the NB zone was made to be harmonious with, and not detrimental, to the neighborhood,” said Riccio. “Clean Joe bought the property under these conditions, and now he wants to change it, and there will be no difference between that NB zone and the general business zone in that area.”
Riccio said he has lived in the neighborhood for 36 years and never complained about Madison. He added that he would not complain about Clean Joe except for their doing business after typical business hours. “It’s loud, it’s noisy, there are backup alarms; there are gates opening; and these are large metal gates,” said Riccio. “All this happens, and it could be in the middle of the night. Madison had nothing like that.” Riccio said he has no problem with the noise during regular daytime hours.
ZBA Member Arthur Pelton made a motion to overturn the building inspector’s decision, which was approved by a 4-0 vote.