BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — The developer of a planned three-story apartment building on Cabot Street in Beverly said he will go ahead with the project despite a divided Planning Board vote this week.
The board approved the building Tuesday but rejected developer Jeff Holloran’s request to include more parking spaces on the site.
“It made it worse for everybody, but ultimately it will get built,” Holloran said.
The vote capped a monthslong deliberation over the controversial project, which would be the first new construction on downtown Cabot Street in years.
The building will include 12 two-bedroom apartments on the top floors, with retail space and a studio apartment on the first floor. It will be built at 130 Cabot St. next to Sam’s Cleaners on land that has been used as a parking lot since the C.F. Tompkins furniture store burned down in 1973.
Supporters, including Beverly Main Streets and City Council President Paul Guanci, said the project fits in with the strategy of reviving the downtown by bringing more residents and stores to the area.
But a vocal group of neighbors say the building is too big and will increase traffic on the adjacent narrow side streets. The entrance to the parking lot will be on one-way Vestry Street, not Cabot Street, so people will have to drive on Railroad Avenue, Elm Street and Vestry Street to get there.
“Vestry would not be allowed to be created as a street today because it’s too small,” Vestry Street resident Tom Walsh said.
The developers said putting the entrance on Cabot Street would force them to make the building too small to be economically viable.
Elisabeta Veliaj, who lives on Cabot Street directly across from the development, said the new building would “destroy our lives.”
Elm Street resident Dana Acciavatti said the board members who supported the project showed no regard for the concerns of the neighbors.
“The board’s decision was unconscionable but not unexpected,” he said. “We knew going in we were up against a brick wall. It’s all about development at the cost of the neighborhood and the cost of the taxpayers.”
The Planning Board voted 4-3, with one member abstaining, to approve the site plan for the building, which at 341/2 feet is under the 55-foot height limit for the area set by zoning laws.
The board also voted 4-3 on the special permit that would allow smaller and more parking spaces on the site. But since the granting of a special permit requires a supermajority of six votes, the extra parking was shot down. Holloran said the building will now have 10 or 12 parking spaces instead of the 17 that he wanted.
The reduced parking goes against the wishes of some board members and neighbors who wanted to avoid having residents and customers of 130 Cabot use city parking spaces.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Dinkin, who voted in favor of the project, asked if any members wanted to reconsider their vote, but they did not.
“This project does not fit the neighborhood,” said James Matz, who voted no. “It’s too big in scope.”
But Tom Alexander, the lawyer who represented the developer, said the building will represent a big improvement over the “derelict” property that is there now.
“It’s not a good thing for there to be vacant lots in a downtown,” Alexander said. “This is really what the city needs.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.