Zoning Relief for Both 11 Isabella Street and Sandwich Chain on Newbury Street Approved by ZBA

A building at 11 Isabella St. in Bay Village with numerous zoning code violations was granted relief by the Zoning Board of Appeal at its Aug. 28 hearing, however, the Board is withholding signature until they receive the stamp of approval from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC). Christian Simonelli from the Boston Groundwater Trust said at the hearing that the plans have been submitted and are currently under review by the BWSC.

The proposed project at the building, which has a current legal occupancy of four units, has the following violations: off-street parking is insufficient, no roof structure design or use for occupancy should be erected or enlarged on a roof of an existing building used for residential use, excessive Floor Area Ratio (FAR), the building heigh is excessive in stories and feet, and townhous/rowhouse extension, and the building is also within the Groundwater Conservation Overlay District.

Mike Ross, attorney at Prince Lobel, represented the project at the hearing, He said that they are looking to maintain the four units but add to them. The proposal includes a three-story rear addition, rear balconies, and a penthouse addition on the roof with a roof deck, as well as a 6 foot high fence with retaining wall and to raze the existing garage. Each of the units would have outdoor space to satisfy the open space requirement.

“The applicants live in the neighborhood, they’re very active, and they’ve been through the community process on their own and have generated a number of support letters,” Ross said.

Ross also said that the rear of the property is registered land, and the easement going through it has expired so they have no access to the garage coming out of the back of the unit. So he said they would like to remove the garage and replace it mostly with open space in the outdoor area and some building space.

“In light of that unique circumstance of land, it’s part of the reason why we went forward with these variances that are in front of you today,” said Ross.

The addition would be a little over 1,000 square feet, and Ross said that they would like to go from a 2.44 FAR to a 3.13 FAR, but this is a 2.0 FAR district, he said.

Faisa Sharif from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that the applicants met with the Bay Village Neighborhood Association and have received a letter of non-opposition.

“We also held an abutter’s meeting that was really well attended and they’ve worked out any issues or remaining concerns with the abutters,” she said.

A representative from Councilor Ed Flynn’s office also expressed their support for this project.

Board member Anthony Pisani made a motion to grant the zoning relief requested but with continued Bay Village design review, and the withholding of the signature until they receive approval from BWSC. The motion was approved.

Which Wich, a create-your-own sandwich franchise, has proposed a location at 324 Newbury St.

Brek Peterson, who, along with his wife, own the franchise in the Boston area, said at the hearing that he was seeking relief from the building code violation for wheelchair access and building use.

The restaurant would be about 40 percent takeout and 60 percent eat-in. The plans submitted do not provide a wheelchair-accessible entrance to the proposed restaurant.

Board Chair Christine Araujo asked Peterson why he cannot make the restaurant accessible. Peterson responded by saying that they’ve been through the access board and have received approval from them. He said that the building is an older building on Newbury Street in the final block by Massachusetts Avenue, and there are four steps up into the building that would require 20 feet of ramp to make it accessible. There is no space for that, according to Peterson. He also said that if they sere to lower the front to grade, that would require the ceiling at the garden level to be lowered below the requirements.

“So all of the options that we put forward were just not feasible,” Peterson said. So instead, they are proposing a call button at grade covered with a lighted sign, so people can come up to it, order their sandwich, and have it brought out to them.

Right now, the building is open retail space, and Peterson said that it housed a popup store from Nantucket for a while.

Yissel Guerrero from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that they held an abutter’s meeting where one abutter came out in full support, and the property owner is also in full support. Elliott Laffer from the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay said that NABB had met with the applicant, who described the use as an indoor, 40-seat restaurant with no outdoor seating. The cooking takes place on a conveyor belt and requires no exhaust except to remove heat.

“Based on their description, we are not in opposition,” Laffer said.

Pisani made a motion to grant the building code relief requested with the usual takeout language. He said his motion was based on the basis of approval from the Architectural Access Board, from which Peterson provided a letter of approval. The motion was approved.

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