The Revere Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) rejected a request by a developer for a variance in order to construct a single-family home on a vacant lot adjacent to a two-family home he owns on Sewall St. at its meeting last Wednesday.
The developer, Mario Zepaj, sought a variance from the parking requirements of the zoning ordinances. The exact language of his application — which involved intricacies of the zoning ordinances that proved confusing even to members of the ZBA — was as follows:
“Mario Zepaj requesting a variance of RRO Section 17.24.030(3)(a)(ii), parking requirements for existing lots in the HD Overlay Zone, to enable the appellant to construct a single-family dwelling on Lot 118 Sewall Street, because the existing developed lot, Lot 117 at 26 Sewall Street, cannot accommodate two off-street parking spaces as required by Section 17.24.030(3), the adjacent vacant lot, Lot 118 Sewall Street, is necessary to meet the parking requirements of the developed lot and the vacant lot is deemed unbuildable.”
After Mr. Zepaj presented his application to the board, Louis Cavagnaro, the city’s Building Commissioner, spoke in favor of the application.
“His variance, in my eyes, is asking for something that is miniscule,” said Cavagnaro, who noted that many other homes in the neighborhood are built on lots of a similar size to Zepaj’s, which consists of 3800 square feet.
Cavagnaro said that there will be no traffic or drainage issues, and further noted that “a nice home would increase taxes and improve the value of other homes in the neighborhood.”
However, the board heard from a phalanx of opposition from residents — a letter was received from an abutter opposed to the application, as well as a petition in opposition signed by 45 neighbors — and from three of the city’s ward councillors.
John Stamatopoulos of 15 Sewall St., which faces the lot in question, spoke against the application.
“We’re in a very-densely settled area and this is the only plot of grass on the entire street,” said Stamatopoulos. “Drainage is a major issue. Water will go down the street and ultimately into my basement. We also have a parking issue on this street. This is a dense area that just can’t sustain any more homes.”
Another resident, Steven Powers of 4 Sewall St., also spoke against the application.
After initially citing a technical reason — per the zoning ordinance — for the board to turn down the application, Powers also discussed practical reasons for the board to reject it.
“We have problems with traffic and flooding,” said Powers. “That lot is undersized. My fear is that the infrastructure that is underneath was built long ago and we don’t have the proper drainage to put another structure there.”
Ward 5 City Councilor John Powers was the first of the city council members to speak against the application.
“I’m here tonight to ask for your help not to allow a house to be built on a 3800 square foot lot,” said Powers. “This is ludicrous. I’ve been down there when there is flooding on Sewall St. Now we’re looking to make it a little worse? This is something that should not be built down there. This shouldn’t happen.
“People down there are hard-working people and they pay their taxes,” Powers continued. “They deserve some help, and the help they need is from this board. Please do not vote for this. It is the wrong thing for the city of Revere.”
Next up was Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro who made brief remarks in opposition.
“It is clear this is a bad practice for the city,” said Cogliandro. “This lot is unbuildable. Whether we agree with the rules or not, they are the rules and hopefully, this board will do the right thing.”
Ward 1 Councilor Joanne McKenna then took the podium.
“I’ve been a councillor for eight years and they have tremendous flooding and sewage problems,” said McKenna, who noted that by removing the green space, there will be more flooding. “If we open this can of worms, every small lot that is not buildable will become buildable because we set a precedent.”
Zepaj briefly responded to the issues raised by the opponents pertaining to parking and noted that his construction plan meets the setback requirements.
However, after the board heard the pros and cons of the application, Chairman Michael Tucker cast the matter as one that falls outside the jurisdiction of the ZBA strictly from a legal perspective.
“This is not even a zoning issue per the ordinance,” said Tucker. “This is a moot point and we should not even be voting on it. This should not be in front of us at this point. We can’t go against the ordinance.”
After a brief discussion about the legal aspects of the application relative to the ordinance, Tucker and his fellow board members, Arthur Pelton, James O’Brien, John Lopes, and Aklog Limeneh, voted unanimously to reject the application.
The board continued the application of Evergreen Property Solutions, LLC, which came before the board requesting “a variance of RRO Section 17.24.070(A)(3), parking in the rear yard, to enable Evergreen to establish four off-street parking spaces in the rear of the property and meet the minimum parking requirements to convert the existing single-family dwelling to a two-family dwelling on Lots 433 and 434 at 57 Stevens Street.”
Joseph Catoggio represented Evergreen Property and presented the application to the board. He noted that the only variance requested pertained to parking and that there are other two-family homes in the area. He said there will be no enlargement of the existing structure and said that parking in the rear of the structure will not require a curb cut.
“This will allow the applicant to use the property for its best and highest use,” said Catoggio, who added that the owner himself will be living there and that he simply is seeking to legalize a unit that previously has been rented without adding any bedrooms. Catoggio said three of the neighbors and the ward councillor had been contacted and had not expressed any opposition.
Ron Champoux, 88 Stevens St., opposed the application, stating that to allow parking in the rear of the building will devalue the nearby properties. “This is a cascading event by adding another two-family home,” said Champoux. “There are too many cars there now on Stevens St. This will create an incredible burden on persons in the neighborhood.”
Another neighbor, Richard Joyce, 178 Grover St., said he personally has been in contact with the ward councillor “and he (the councillor) indicated that he would send a letter sharing our concerns and opposition.” (Tucker noted for the record that no letter had been received.)
Christine Joyce, also of 178 Grover St., spoke to the board and added, “Our neighborhood is getting congested with the parking.”
However, the board voted 5-0 to continue the matter because, as Tucker had indicated at the outset of the hearing, the newly-revised plan submitted by the applicant had not not been received by the board more than seven days prior to the hearing.
The board also continued the application of Robert Mahoney, who came before the ZBA requesting a variance of RRO Section 17.24.010, minimum lot frontage of 80’, to enable him to construct single-family dwellings on Lots 142, 144, 146, and 148 Morris Street.
However, the board heard from two residents who opposed the plan.
“There is a major flooding problem on the street and the new homes will only add to the problem,” said Mostafa Faddouli, a resident of 216 Breeden’s Lane. “It does not make any sense to allow the construction of four new houses in that area where we already have a stormwater drainage issue.”
Faddouli noted that he and other homeowners presently are suing Mahoney, who also built their homes, in Suffolk Superior Court because of the drainage issues in their neighborhood, with Faddouli noting that the flooding is so bad, “children cannot even cross the street.”
“We hope the board will make the right decision,” said Faddouli, urging the board to reject the application. “If he will fix the drainage problem in the street, then we’ll have no problem with his application.”
Another resident, Domenic Testa, 21 Morris St., also opposed the application.
“There is precious little green space left in this city,” said Testa. “Leaving it green would be an advantage not just for the city, but for the people in the area.
Testa, referencing the drainage problems in the area, said, “Residents are placing sandbags in their driveways and my daughter can’t walk home from school without getting her feet wet.”
The board continued the matter until its meeting on December 28 at the request of the applicant.