Residents opposed to the proposed apartment complex on Waltham Street spilled out of the Council Chamber into the hallway as they waited to hear the latest presentation to the Planning Board Thursday night.
The proposed three-building, 211-unit complex at Waltham Street near Stanley Road came before the Planning Board for the second time, and this time even more people came to speak out against the proposal.
Planning Board Chairman John Hawes Jr. asked people to stay away from traffic, which will be discussed at the board's meeting in January. He also called for an independent review of the developer's traffic study to be presented at the next meeting. He noted that a similar-size development on the same site was rejected in 2003 because of traffic impact.
Residents had plenty of other complaints about the proposal.
Some said the 56 foot high building would tower over their single-family home neighborhoods, others worried the apartments would add more students to the schools costing taxpayers more to educate them and some worried they would add more crime to the area.
The streets in the area are single-family and two-family homes, most of which are owner occupied. Resident Bob Manzelli said this kind of development does not belong in the area.
"If you reject this, the developers will move on to the next town and develop there, but if you approve, we will have to live forever with this monstrosity," Manzelli said. "This would be all rentals. There would be no sense of community."
The project is proposed under the rules for the Pleasant Street Corridor, but people said Waltham Street is not the same as Pleasant Street.
"We don't want Somerville apartment buildings," said Falmouth Road resident Beverly Hanson.
State Rep. and District D Town Councilor John Lawn said the proposal is too big for Waltham Street.
"If you look at Repton Place, it is not bad on Pleasant Street, but put it on Waltham Street and it really changes the feel of the neighborhood," Lawn said.
Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she went to a meeting in August where residents opposed the project and nothing has changed, except the number opposed has grown.
"I hope the residents are being listened to," Kounelis said. "They said 'no' on Aug. 4, and there has been minimal changes to the project. It is a very large development. I don't know why we continue to discuss it."
Planning Staff Signs Off
The Watertown Planning Department staff gave its blessing to the project. Planner Danielle Evans said the project met the requirements to get a special permit to build over the height limit, as well as met the requirements of the site plan review.
Among the improvements that will be made will be a clean-up of the entire Walker Pond, which sits on the west side of the property, said Steve Winnick, attorney for the developers, Woods Partners. The last meeting, the proposal was to only clean the north half, because the other half sat in land owned by LIG Holding Co., the group selling the land to Woods Partners.
The complex would have 11 affordable units, Evans said.
Also, Woods Partners and LIG have made an agreement to create walking/biking paths from Waltham Street to Pleasant Street. One would run down Stanley Avenue, Winnick said, the other would link paths in the complex to the parcel owned by LIG and that would link to a path that Repton Place will create when the second half of that project is built.
Residents scoffed at the idea of people wanting to stroll from Waltham Street to Pleasant Street and the Charles River.
The project is part of turning a run-down former industrial area into one that reinvigorates the Pleasant Street corridor and brings tax money into the town, said John Connery, who did the fiscal impact study for developers.
"Of course it is a horrendous walk (now)," Connery said. "It will continue to be if it is not redeveloped into a new use."
The area is a barrier between the residential area and the former heavy industry along the charges. The proposed project, Connery said, is meant to integrate the land back into the community.
Architects redesigned the buildings and now has a mix of yellow, white and dark gray verticle elements to break up the length of the buidlings.
Hawes said he thought it looked too busy, and suggested having long horizontal element, perhaps brick on the ground floor and white on the top floor.
Planning Board member Neal Corbett agreed.
"It is still broken up too much," Corbett said.
The proposal pushes the building closest to Waltham Street 30 feet back from the street, 20 more than originally proposed. Hawes said he would like to see it even farther back.
The site has many limits, such as conservation areas that cannot be built on without a speical permit, and a water main that runs through the property, Winnick said.