Developers Strikes Out on Zoning Change Application on Washington Avenue

Proposed  East Cove Townhouses

Proposed East Cove Townhomes

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,159)

Although the development team of Gan & Rathband did not get the support for their application for a zone change from an R6 to a B2b zone for the proposed East Cove Townhomes last night they wanted, the two got something else for the time they expended before the city’s planning board in a workshop last night at city hall. The location of the proposal is at 145-155 Washington Avenue, the current site of Casale’s Auto Sales and Service, a long-time family owned business by Hill residents.

The controversial developer Ron Gan and Jed Rathband, a broker for Keller Williams, put forth their best effort to convince the planning board that a B2b zone change was essential to the development of their 14 unit project. The board didn’t approve it.  The zone change would permit a commercial space to be built, possibly a restaurant, along Washington Avenue.  Their justification was that the area needs a restaurant or cafe that could lead to further similar development in the area. Of more significance, however, but less discussed by the development team, was the smaller setbacks the zone change would provide – critical to their proposed development.  Another factor critical to the success of this proposal, is the financing of the East Cove Townhomes. At a neighborhood meeting held on August 14th, Rathband admitted that financial lending institutions require them to pre-sell 8 units prior to funding the entire project.

Although the board liked the project generally, it did not support the idea of a B2b zone change.  Planning board member Elizabeth Boepple said she was not sure that this zone change was the “right approach” and recommended a revisit of the subject. Another board member Jack Soley said:  “If you go to a B2b change, nothing says how you are gong to use the area.” Tim Dean added:  “If you guys move on (and sell the property) or don’t get the funding you need, what happens?” This was a sentiment expressed during the public comment period when Walnut Street resident Bendan O’Neil said he had zoning change concerns. The Sahara Club, a warehouse, and parking lots are all located nearby – why not there?  “This plan will not be viable in the R6 zone,” said Gan.

Although Gan & Rathband did not get support for a zone change , they did get something else.  A public platform from which the controversial Gan promoted his Happy Valley Vision for  Washington Avenue.  “This is the neighborhood where everyone will want to live,” said Gan.  The target markets are young professional couples and well-to-do retirees.  Tom Bloom, a new Walnut Street resident, criticized Gan’s idyllic view of Washington Avenue when he said:  ” Gan may enjoy his view of the sunset from his porch, but we will lose part of our view if this zoning change happens.”