Residents overwhelmingly supported Melrose developer Mark "Woody" Carroll's site plans for 354 and 360-362 Upham St., where Carroll is hoping to rehabilitate the property and create eight new residential units.
Carroll and his development team brought their site plans to the Melrose Planning Board meeting on Monday night, where there was a public hearing to address the current commercial use designation, and hear resident concerns about the potential development. Carroll's attorney, Robert Bell, Jr., said the units will be mostly two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos for "empty nesters." He said the property's history of commercial use has not produced favorable results, and called the property a "couple of ugly buildings that you've kind of gotten used to."
The plan for developing the area has evolved over the last several months. The initial plan Carroll submitted called for an 18-unit development, but residents had concerns about congestion and population density, so Carroll reworked the plans so that there are eight units. There are currently five units on the property.
"This has taken many, many, many months of thought," Carroll said. "I'm excited to build it."
Based on the public feedback, residents seem to be enthusiastic as well. Over 30 residents came out for the hearing, and all who spoke were in favor of the development. Some residents expressed concerns about water drainage, trash disposal and traffic, but the general consensus was that the new development was a more suitable alternative than leaving the property as commercial (and likely vacant). Carroll said trash disposal would be handled by a private company each week, and that neighborhood residents would not have to worry about dumpsters on the property.
"I have spoken out against other proposals," said resident Richard Wallace of Highview Avenue. "This is the type of project that has to be there. It is in no way intrusive to the [surrounding] neighborhood."
Melrose Planning Board Chairman Richard Connolly said the board will begin a site plan review, but wanted to hear residents input about the project. His goal is to "ensure [the project] is not detrimental to land use."
He said the site will undergo a site plan review, where the Melrose Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will address any concerns about the current development. Connolly said that the ZBA will review several areas, including outside lighting, fencing, sidewalks, drainage and signage. City Planner Denise Gaffey said that Carroll's application was very thorough.
"We are, in general, very supportive of the proposal," Gaffey said. She said the planning office will have to review the number of parking spaces for the unit, which she thought was excessive. There are 22 total parking spots for the eight units, when the city only requires two spaces per unit, or 16 total parking spaces. Several Planning Board members suggested reducing the number of parking spaces along Upham Street and landscaping the perimeter. Reducing the number of parking spaces could also reduce the amount of water drainage and runoff.
Connolly said this would be there would be additional meetings to discuss the development, but that he was pleased with the input so far from Carroll and the community.