LETTER: Neighbors Upset by Two Story Addition 5 Feet From Rear Property Line

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Neighbors on the back side of 73-75 Morse Street worry that having a two story garage right near their property line will hurt the value of their homes.

Neighbors on the back side of 73-75 Morse Street worry that having a two story garage right near their property line will hurt the value of their homes.


We are writing as a concerned and outraged neighborhood about an egregious construction situation at 73/75 Morse St. If this is allowed to be completed, it will set a precedent that could be repeated throughout Watertown. If stopped, it would set a precedent that this kind of thing isn’t allowed or tolerated in this town.

The new owner-builder of this property has permission from the town to re-construct the two houses and garage that were there. This did not trigger any notification from the zoning inspector/department to neighbors, or a hearing, even though the plans specified some shocking changes.

Two weeks ago, suddenly an entire second floor plus a pitched roof went up on the so-called garage replacement that spans the backs of two entire properties on Capitol Street (#70 and #74). The “garage” is now an enormous monstrosity, larger than most houses. Because it’s a garage and not a house, it was legal for this to be built just 5 feet from these 2 property lines, but it is absolutely illegal to have a second story on a garage.

Somehow Watertown’s Department of Community Development & Planning approved these plans. They say the developer is building pull-down stairs instead of regular stairs so it qualifies as one story! There are also now four windows with bays that face Morse Street on this obvious second story, although the builder claims the space will only be used for storage. He’s laid foundation for a home office and bathroom in one end of the “garage”, so there will now be heating and plumbing as well. The home office in a garage is legal; the second story and mammoth size of the entire structure is not.

The new garage of a property Morse Street property is two stories high and stretches the length of two rear abutting properties, just 5 feet from the property line.

The two properties at 70 and 74 Capitol St now have no sun in their yards, little view of sky, a huge wall that is claustrophobic even from windows of their homes and feels prison-like in their own backyards.

Older houses are being demolished with larger ones replacing them all over Watertown. This specific situation is particularly egregious because of the enormity of this “garage” building, but there have been many cases where the “feel” of neighborhoods has changed, and there are apparently ways that builders can even skirt around the building and zoning ordinance intentions. Can we allow gigantic structures like this to loom over our yards? Is there any protection for longtime tax-paying citizens’ properties?

Joanne Hammil, 70 Capitol St.
Judy and Ralph Antonucci, 74 Capitol St.
Diana Najarian and John Philley, 76 Capitol St.
Jim and Ellen Ridge, 88 Union St.
Jonathan Rosenthal, 67 Capitol St.
Bruce Zamost and Michele Lorilla, 79 Morse St.
Sarah Sirin and Izzet Yildiz, 81 Morse St.

21 thoughts on “LETTER: Neighbors Upset by Two Story Addition 5 Feet From Rear Property Line

  1. The town has little interest in protecting longtime tax-paying citizens or their properties. The Town Planner is actively working to turn Watertown into a transient community where residents only spend about five years in the community before moving on. Apparently incentivizing rental properties is far more tax profitable, which is all they care about, than respecting members of the community with their roots set down in Watertown. It is a shame. I wish you folks the best of luck in seeing this matter rectified and hope for the town’s sake you are successful, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Our town’s leadership sold out a long time ago.

      • The same is happening on Paul Street. They want to tear down a single family and replace it with and apartment building (4 units from what I understand). No longer is Watertown the small quaint family town, it is being morphed into an apartment/condo dwelling town that is too expensive for anyone to really live in. You leave Watertown, be prepared to not be able afford to come back. Also, these new buildings are hideous.

  2. Enforcement of building codes is extremely lax in Watertown. These pictures show a situation that clearly should not be allowed. I, too, hope that the abutters are successful in stopping this monstrosity. But it does seem that the town favors the interests of developers over residents, which is a situation that has damaged the town greatly up to this point and promises more damage in the future.

  3. So, once the final permitting and inspection is completed there’s nothing stopping the home owner from installing a regular staircase.

    In the coming future, the neighbors/abutters need to keep a close watch out for contractors, construction debris and anything else that might indicate unauthorized/unpermitted changes are being made to the interior. If anything seems
    out of place, contact the building inspector.

  4. It is beginning to look like $$$ rules and little more. Looking at some of the things that have been allowed, one has to wonder if one or more “town planners” aren’t getting their palms greased.

  5. I am so sorry to see this. We were facing a similar monstrous garage on the Athena property which would have loomed over our neighborhood. Years later, although we managed with hours of unpaid work to get the garage height down and setback increased, we are still fighting them over lighting. They promised perimeter lighting on the top floor and that we would be able to review garage lighting before installation. Neither happened. We had no support from the Planning Dept. Don’t expect anything from them. The Town Council mostly follows advice from Planning. My advice: get yourselves a lawyer and sue. It is probably the only way to stop it now. Make sure you check every detail of any agreement to protect yourselves from having to deal with negative repercussions in the future.

  6. This is absolutely terrible! I hope that good sense and clear thinking will prevail to remove this structure ASAP!
    Yes, once again our town departments have let the citizens of Watertown down and have chosen to favor construction and profits over our community. We need someone to show some backbone in our planning, zoning and other related town offices. With all of the current construction projects going on, there is less and less of Watertown to preserve!

  7. The town definitely cares more about the builders than the residents. Just look at Pleasant Street. After they allowed the Riverbend to build close to the road they said they wouldn’t allow that again because it gave the street a canyon feel. There are now 2 more developments going up just as close to the street. It’s a disgrace what they are allowing to happen to our town.

  8. Start a Petition and get people to sign it i for one would sign it get enough signatures and make enough noise and let them know we as watertown home owners are not going to tolerate this abuse of power good luck!

  9. The wall is here! Simply outrageous that this construction was allowed to happen in a two-family zone where light and views are now blocked to abutting residences.

    According to Patriot Properties #73 Morse Street is listed as a single family home 3BR/2 baths on .032 acres built about 1920. It was purchased by Excelsior Development Partners in Newton for $1.35M on November 11, 2017. On January 12, 2018 a demo permit was issued. There is no property listing for #75 Morse Street.

    Please go and view this project from both Morse Street and Capitol Street. How will all these garages (?) be utilized and by whom? Is a commercial enterprise moving in to this two-family zone? Did Community Development & Planning approve this project with no public input or oversight by the Planning Board or the Zoning Board? Who looks out for the general welfare of our community? So many questions. A public accounting is in order. Support the folks on Capitol Street for We Are All Watertown!!!

  10. There is a system the town sends out notifications for building permits requested and issued. It is a way to monitor what’s planned for your neighborhood. I used to be subscribed.

  11. Elodia Thomas,

    Yet you working with these same local developers in 2016 to defeat the Community Preservation Act which would provide funds for preserving green spaces, trees, and affordable housing?

    Didn’t you basically lie and take out ads in the Watertown News under “Watertown Strong Schools” name opposing question 5, but in fact, the money reimbursed to you was from these same local developers – not Watertown Strong Schools members??

    You should answer to the public for you lies, deception, and role in this illegal activity
    (This developer group Concerned Watertown Homeowners was found guilty of campaign finance violations).

    Mark Sideris and the Town Manager need to answer the public on how you got appointed to the CPA committee when you were involved in illegal campaign finance activity to in an attempt to defeat it.

    The proof copy and paste links:
    (Elodia being reimbursed by local developers)
    (Local developers and Watertown Strong Schools found guilty)

    • I will let Elodia respond in more detail, but the Watertown Strong Schools were not funded by local developers. You might mean the Concerned Watertown Homeowners, who also opposed the CPA at the time but which was not the same as the WSS. The WSS group said they did not totally oppose the CPA, but felt that the town should take care of the schools before passing the CPA.

      • Charlie –

        I don’t know what “they did not totally oppose” the CPA means. WSS advocated and campaigned against it.

        In the second document that “H2OHomeowner” linked to, you can see how the Concerned Watertown Homeowners Association and Watertown Strong Schools were involved together in opposing the CPA (and the state found that both groups did not comply with campaign finance law).


  12. Take a look at the home next to 98 Jensen Road. Nothing could be done about that being rebuilt. All the homes on that side of the street are ranch style. It was permitted by the “town”. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

  13. I spoke to the zoning officer.
    He stated that since the floor above was not considered residential, he did not consider this to be a floor. It had no plumbing and other items. Therefore this zoning note would not apply. He said there are other considerations which are not being reviewed. It seemed like a reasonable interpretation for storage above a garage. The zoning code does limit the height to 18 feet for a sloped roof structure. This does seem like reasonable criteria to allow free standing garages to have pitched roofs. This is very common and is usually more attractive than flat roofed garages. Zoning is not a great tool for achieving good design. This is a good example. Good design requires the diligence of the public. This should demonstrate the need for public involvement and a valid response by the public officials.

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