Owners of properties along Galen Street and Water Street seek zoning changes so they can build a biotech complex with a park, but the District Councilor said she wants the public to be able to weigh in before the change goes through.
Tuesday night, Boston Development Group came forward requesting the zoning change. The developers have purchased a number of properties east of Galen Street, and while more than 80 percent of the land is in the Industrial 2 (I-2) zone, about 17 percent is zoned as Limited business. They have requested that all the parcels be zoned I-2.
Bob Doherty, a vice president with Boston Development Group, said that under the current zoning, two life science buildings could be built with a mixed-use building in the Limited Business zone. With a change of the zoning to the properties (70, 78, 84-86, and 88 Galen St.) two life science buildings could be built, along with a 25,000 sq. ft. park on the area next to the MBTA bus yard and not far from the Charles River.
The properties they purchased include the former Colonial Buick-GMC dealer, the former Valvoline oil change, a house that had a fire, and the former U.S. Petroleum gas station.
In addition, they propose re-aligning Water Street so that it intersects Galen Street across from Aldridge Road. This would allow MBTA buses from the Watertown Yard to use that as an entrance and exit, instead of its current location.
“It will cut down the number of buses exiting into the pinch point at the Watertown Square,” said Attorney Bill York, who is representing Boston Development Group.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said that the traffic may also be improved at the intersection of Galen and Nonantum/Watertown streets because currently there is a phase in the traffic light to allow the buses to exit.
District B Councilor Lisa Feltner, represents the area, said she does not feel comfortable approving the zoning change because she does not know enough about the impact of the project on the area, including on traffic, parking and light. She also said that she wants the public to have more input.
Feltner made a motion to refer the proposal to a Council subcommittee to study the proposal, and also to have a community meeting. No one seconded the motion, so it failed. Then Feltner used her Charter Privilege to delay the vote on the zoning change.
Town Attorney Mark Reich said the vote will be held at the next Town Council meeting, which will be on Feb. 11. Also, because the public hearing was held and closed, no more public input can be heard, but councilors can discuss the motion.
Feltner said she still hopes to hold a community meeting before the vote.
Before Feltner used her Charter Privilege, other councilors spoke in favor of the change, though some were wary. Councilor Tony Palomba said that while the change might help the town, they also help the developer.
“I am looking at the plan fairly close, and expect what the developer does with it does not stray far from what we are talking about,” Palomba said. “It is a bit of a leap of faith.”
Councilor Anthony Donato said that he heard some of the concerns of the Planning Board, and said that the zoning for the Industrial 2 zone may need updating. He added, however, that he did not want to punish the current property owner because of that. He added that, he thinks it would be a better project if the zoning change is approved.
Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said that old uses were auto-focused businesses, which created significant traffic.
“By redeveloping it into a biotech complex it would remove a lot of vehicle intensive uses that were there,” Piccirilli said.