Island Creek developer, ZBA wrangle over building heights

Written by Meaghan Glassett
 | Tuesday, 04 August 2009 21:20

Size, apparently, does matter –– at least in the minds of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

After almost a year since hearings began, the board is closer to drafting a special permit for the expansion of the Island Creek development off Tremont Street, a 40B project. However, the board is still wary about the size of the apartment buildings included in the expansion. At four stories, the buildings would be the tallest in Duxbury and two stories higher than any existing structure on the property.

The Zoning Board had asked the applicant to redesign the apartment buildings to three stories. At a hearing Monday night, representatives for Island Creek told the board the redesign would cause the development to lose 34 units, rendering the project economically unfeasible.

Ed Marchant, a 40B advisor working with the property’s owner, said there would be a 25 percent decrease in profit.

“If you feel that strongly about the fourth floor, then condition the project,” Marchant said. “I don’t think anything we’ve proposed is outrageous. We need those units to make this project economic.”

Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals Dennis Murphy suggested that the board have a peer review of the economic viability of the project.

“I don’t think we can do our job properly without this exercise,” he said.

Both the Zoning Board and Marchant agreed to the peer review. Marchant told the board that his team was willing to fund a peer review as long as he works with the board.

“I would not be a part of a project, and propose a 40B, not in a strategic location,” Marchant said.

The Zoning Board members took several consensus votes during the hearing but did not make any formal vote on the project as a whole. Some members said that if there was ever an ideal place for this project it would be in the location of Island Creek.

“I don’t have any negative aspects relevant to the overall approach being taken,” Zoning Board member Gene Orosz said.

Vice Chairman of the Zoning Board Judith Barrett said that she does not oppose four story buildings, but she did have to ask herself, “What is the view going to be like when the project is done.”

In addition to the concerns over the size of the buildings, the board also had concerns about whether or not to use Cape Cod berms or vertical granite curbs along the main boulevard, where to locate a third playground or “tot lot,” and whether or not a traffic signal could help the traffic flow.

The board showed in a consensus vote that they would prefer Cape Cod berms over vertical granite curbs. They also felt the location of the Tot Lot should be visible from the residential buildings.

At the end of the hearing, the board said they believed all their concerns could be addressed in the conditions of the special permit for the 40B project. The hearing was continued until Sept. 24.