[For some reason the video of the last ZBA meeting has not been posted so I cannot provide a leak]
This is a follow-up to my posting on the Monday night ZBA meeting. It was brief so this is a more complete report.
Michael Toohey began by saying that he was not withdrawing the current application to modify Moore Hall but that he did want to discuss this application. He asked that the members of the public who had come to the meeting refrain from addressing this application. Instead, he told the Board, he wanted to introduce an alternative proposal.
Sonny Bonacio then explained that they had listened to the public and that they had decided to completely rethink the parcel. He then said repeatedly that the public had asserted that they were happy with the original proposal put forward in 2006. This was important because what he was proposing to replace Moore Hall with now was a set of buildings that appeared to have the same footprint as the 2006 plan. It also appeared to have the same mass. Bonacio emphasized that they would be asking for the same setback variances the Board had approved for the 2006 plan.
It was interesting that during the presentation Mr. Bonacio addressed the audience as much as he did the Zoning Board.
Michael Ingersoll of the LA Group did the presentation of the actual plans. First he showed renderings of what the original 2006 building looked like. He then explained that the graphic of the layout of the buildings they were proposing now were very roughly thrown together. He displayed the 2006 plan with the new plan to show how similar their footprints were. Mr. Bonacio added that Ingersoll had drafted the rough plan the Saturday morning that the City Council had been meeting with the community. Mr. Bonacio said that his group had reviewed all the public comments as part of their reassessment.
Mr. Bonacio ran through a Powerpoint presentation regarding the economics of what they were doing. First he showed some statistics about the sale of condos of one million dollars. The gist of this was that while a number had sold, they had been on the market a long time before they sold. He argued that the economics of the original 2006 proposal were not workable and that the environment for the sale of such high end properties was even worse now. This brought him to the need to downsize the condos for this project so they could be sold for under $700,000.00. This also meant that rather than eighteen units proposed in 2006 and that the property is zoned for the new project would be comprised of twenty-eight units.
The response to the Zoning Board was, of course, very positive. Two members of the Board made it quite clear that they would not have approved the Moore Hall conversion to 53 units. The chair, William Moore, commented that he liked the original conversion.
The public was then invited to speak. The response was, in general extremely positive. A number of speakers thanked Mr. Bonacio for his new direction.
I asked if the Zoning Board could see that the materials we saw be posted on the city’s web site. Mr. Moore dismissed this request with something about the newness of the City’s web site. I am troubled by not being able to scrutinize the powerpoint analysis of sales of condos or the layouts of the proposed buildings. Granted these are rough drawings. Michael Toohey told the board that they would be back in January for further discussions.
Talking to people after the meeting the general feeling was great relief that the plan to convert Moore Hall into 53 units appeared to be over. There was a universal sense that while people were very encouraged, there remains some skepticism and concern.