A landscaping business got approval from the Zoning Board Wednesday night to alter a former auto repair garage on Mt. Auburn Street and use the property as an office with a small garage on the property.
The business will be located at 735 Mt. Auburn St., which was formerly occupied by Mike’s Auto Repair, and sit just east of the Tufts Health Plan building. The plans call for having an office and a garage, along with parking spaces for three trucks and two trailers.
Ken Leitner, attorney for owners Kelly Land Trust LLC, said that two unsuccessful attempts were made to turn the site into a food service business — a Mister Donut in the 1980s and a restaurant in the 1990s. Judging by that, Leitner said that the neighborhood did not want a restaurant in that location. He added that the landscaping business will not be detrimental to the area.
“They are going to maintain it. There will be one to two people in the office,” Leitner said. “The garage, they will use for their needs: store some of their items there, do some maintenance work. It will not be open to the public.”
The next door neighbor did not speak at Wednesday’s Zoning Board meeting, but spoke in support of the project when it was in front of the Planning Board in March, Leitner said. The project took longer than normal to get to the ZBA because of the COVID-19 outbreak, ZBA Chair Melissa SantucciRozzi said.
District A Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis wrote an email to the Zoning Board saying she did not think that a landscaping business was a good use of the property. She worried about large trucks being stored there.
The trucks that will be used on the site will be larger pickup trucks fitted to be dump trucks, Leitner said. Two of the truck have trailers, one open and one closed. The business will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. In the winters, the company does snowplowing.
SantucciRozzi wanted to make sure that there would not be noisy activities on the site, because it is close to a residential neighborhood. The immediate next door neighboring house is right near the garage and truck parking.
“There will be office use, 7 to 6. To be clear, that means that they don’t get there at 6:15 and turn on the trucks and warm them up for 45 minutes,” SantucciRozzi said. “(The parking area) is basically on top of the property abutting it on School Lane. We need to protect the abutting residential district. This property is in the residential district as well.”
The business will be doing maintenance on the trucks at another location, Leitner said, as well as putting the plows on and taking them off in the winter. He said the plows will not be going off at all hours of the night, because the contracts are with commercial properties that do not need to be plowed in the early hours of the morning.
Leitner said not much trash is expected to be created from the property, and said pickups will occur during daytime hours.
The business also will not be storing supplies such as mulch or sod in the garages on the site, Leitner said, though they will store some equipment including small mowers and weed wackers, and hand tools.
“Also they will maintain their lawnmowers, changing blades, cleaning them up,” Leitner said. “The plan is not to put vehicles in the garage. In the winter they might put the trailers in the garage to get them away from the neighbors.”
Looking at the plans submitted to the Town, SantucciRozzi said she did not want the property to have eight tandem parking spots, because it would look more like an auto repair or auto storage business. Instead, she suggested they change them to four extra long spaces, which Leitner agreed to do. SantucciRozzi also requested that the trucks back into the spaces so they can pull out easily in the morning.
A row of small evergreen trees will be planted along the back fence so the neighbors do not see the trucks, and Leitner said the resident requested that they not be higher than the four-foot fence. Planters will be installed on the outside of the building and vegetation planted along the side of the property on School Lane.
ZBA member David Ferris said it is good that the owners will plant something so people aren’t looking at trucks. Zoning Enforcement Officer Mike Mena said the plantings will have to be short enough so that it does not create a dangerous situation.
“When it is adjacent to a driveway the codes limits the height to three feet,” Mena said. “There is discretion and in some cases it can grow a little taller, as long as they maintain the intent of code, and maintain safety for pedestrians and vehicles.”
The ZBA approved the project 4-0, and ZBA member Chris Heep could not participate in the meeting, which was held using the Zoom app.