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Planning Board approves special permit for Nu-Way Homes

Date: 4/29/2015

EAST?LONGMEADOW – A special permit for a single-family home at 28 Edmund St. was approved by the Planning Board at its April 21 for Nu-Way Homes, a local business that builds new homes.

The petitioner, Nu-Way Homes President John Handzel later told Reminder Publications his business has been in East Longmeadow since 2005 and is located at 38 White Ave.

Attorney Larry Levine, representing Handzel, said during the meeting that his client plans to raze an existing home on the property, built in 1880, to build a new single-family home. Handzel is unsure as to whether he would sell the house or live there himself.

Levine, at the beginning of the meeting, addressed a rumor about Handzel planning to build a halfway house at the location.

“There is absolutely no intent to have; we’ve heard, halfway houses [and] other types of issues,” Levine explained. “There is no other intent other than a single-family home to be built or to be used as such there.”

Levine said the area meets the requirements for a preexisting nonconforming lot and the special permit is under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40A Section 6.

He added that his interpretation of the law is that “changing the footprint at all” requires the Planning Board or Building Inspector to make a finding that a new structure is not “substantially more detrimental” than the existing use of the neighborhood.

“The existing structure does not conform to the 75-foot frontage, nor to the 10,000 square-foot minimum [area],” Levine said. “However, the new structure is set back further from the street and conform to the existing side yard and rear set back.”

The town’s zoning bylaw language regarding this topic is almost identical to the state law, he noted.

Levine said another reason for the section 6 review is that if the board approves the permit, an appeal would only be allowed within 20 days.

“If a building permit were issued and if it were issued improperly, it’s my understanding that there’s a six-year statute of limitations,” he added.

Planning Board member George Kingston said the new property would likely not be detrimental to the neighborhood.

“It’ll be a new house that has two feet further back from the street,” he added. “I think it looks good.”

After the Planning Board comments and Levine’s presentation, residents had an opportunity to address their concerns about the property.

Mark Fitzpatrick, 99 Maple St, asked Levine if a home would be built in adjacent lot located nearby the existing home at 28 Edmund St.

Levine responded by stating, “there’s been no actual decision [about] what to do with that lot. There may be a marketing decision not to build there.”

Melanie Mercier, a resident of 50 Mill Road, asked if the owner needs a special permit for a halfway house to host “developmentally disabled people.”

Planning Board Chair Michael Carabetta said if the property owner wanted to build a halfway house on the property it would be within his legal right to do so.

“It’s an allowed use,” he added. “The state sets those laws.”

Kingston said Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40A Section 3 specifically prohibits discrimination against disabled persons.

When asked by Reminder Publications about the existing house on the property, Levine said the home is in a state of disrepair and would need “total rehab” work.

“There are holes in the outer walls,” he added. “There are varmints getting in, etc. It’s just in sad shape.”

The existing house is 900 square feet and the new home would consist of 940 square feet, Levine noted.

In other business, the board also met with Michael Crowley, owner and president of Crowley & Associates Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants for an informal discussion regarding a potential upscale apartment complex being built in the town.

Crowley said he believes there is a “niche market” for 25 to 50 apartment units geared towards young professionals in the area and hopes to pursue this idea in the near future.

Thus far, he has yet to purchase a piece of land for the proposed upscale apartments.

Currently, the town’s zoning does not allow for apartments other than senior housing, he noted.

Crowley asked the board if there is an “appetite” for a business venture of this kind.

Kingston said an article with specific zoning requirements for the entire town would need to be drafted and approved at a future Town Meeting in order to allow an upscale apartment complex.

“I like the idea,” he added. “I think it’s do-able, but I think there’s going to be a lot of education involved as well as choosing the right site … I don’t think it’s going to happen rapidly, but I think it could happen if this is the catalyst that could make it happen.”

Director of Planning Robyn MacDonald said the project would need to show a community benefit.

“I think [it] would be an easy sell,” she noted.