Planning Board Wary of Volkswagen’s Plans for Sullivan Tire Site

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Boston Volkswagen wants to turn the site where Sullivan Tire is located into a used car showroom, but the Planning Board and others said the plan does not fit with the vision to improve Watertown Square.

The Comprehensive Plan, which is currently being worked on by the Town Council and Planning Board, calls for making Watertown Square more attractive to shoppers and pedestrians.

Boston Volkswagen’s plans would be to keep the same building at 21 North Beacon St., but make some upgrades. The building is just down the street from the current Boston Volkswagen dealership, at 43 North Beacon St.

Greg Sampson, the attorney for Boston Volkswagen, said that the new use would have a smaller portion of the building used for auto service, and it would improve the look of the building.

“Eighty percent of the building would be for auto sales, focusing on pre-owned,” Sampson said. Only two of the seven service bays would be used for repairs. The other areas would be a showroom for cars.

The new facade will feature a white material and a lot of glass, Sampson said.

Planning Board member Neal Corbett said at the meeting said he would prefer something different than auto repair and sales in the spot just off the square.

“The comprehensive plan says to do the opposite – something up on the sidewalk, mixed use (development) that enlivens the square,” Corbett said. “I am troubled that we are about to approve the Comprehensive Plan and this goes in the opposite direction.”

Town Councilor Cecilia Lenk agreed with Corbett.

“We should consider if this is the best use of the property,” Lenk said.

Other Town Councilors, residents and neighbors also said they do not want to see another auto repair or auto sales business go into the spot.

There may not be any other options, said Watertown Community Development and Planning Director Steve Magoon. The property is privately owned, and the owner had say over what happens to the site.

“If the project is not approved, the property owner made it clear he will maintain the existing building for existing uses,” Magoon said. “It may not be Sullivan Tire but it will be a similar business.”

Even when the Comprehensive Plan is approved, Magoon said, some changes will not happen immediately.

“When we implement the Comprehensive Plan it may take a long time to come to fruition,” Magoon said.

The Planning Board voted to continue the discussion on Boston Volkswagen’s project and will take it up at its meeting in August.

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