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Weymouth

Micro-apartments get cold shoulder in Weymouth

A view of the sleeping, living, and kitchen areas of a model 300-square-foot micro-apartment exhibit displayed at the Boston Society of Architects.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE /File 2013

A view of the sleeping, living, and kitchen areas of a model 300-square-foot micro-apartment exhibit displayed at the Boston Society of Architects.

Micro-apartments may be the latest real estate trend in places such as San Francisco and Boston, but Weymouth officials and neighbors gave a cold shoulder this summer to a proposal for the tiny living spaces in Jackson Square — forcing the developer to come back with a plan for a smaller building with fewer but bigger apartments.

The concept of extremely small apartments has been advanced in some cities as a way to help meet demand for urban housing at potentially discounted prices. Boston is assessing the impact of micro-units in the Innovation District on South Boston’s waterfront before deciding whether to allow more in other locations; the study is being done with the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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But, “this is Weymouth, not Boston,” said Steffanie Fox, who owns a hair salon in Jackson Square. She opposed the Weymouth micro-unit plan, as did the East Weymouth Neighborhood Association and two town councilors.

Fox said most people in the neighborhood viewed the proposal as a rooming house because of the small size of the apartments — about 300 square feet each — and worried about added traffic in an already congested area.

“Jackson Square is a very quaint, small, historic, walking square,” Fox said. “I don’t think this will” fit in.

“Generally the comments from the public were not positive,” Weymouth town planner Abby McCabe said in an interview last week.

She said the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which has jurisdiction over the proposal, was concerned that the overall project was too large for the site but took no position on the micro-unit aspect of it.

“It’s a new concept everywhere, but especially in the suburbs,” McCabe said. “We really haven’t looked into it.”

Developer Joseph McLaughlin, of My Journey’s End LLC in Quincy, initially proposed putting 19 micro-apartments at 1434 Pleasant St. — with the studios in both the existing building and a new 2½-story one to be built behind it.

A portion of the old wood-frame building — which was previously home to Jackson Square Paint — would be torn down to make room for the new construction and parking area. At the Planning Department’s request, the developer agreed to maintain commercial space on the first floor of the old building, McCabe said.

After a public hearing in June — which included critical comments from Town Councilors Kenneth DiFazio and Robert Conlon, numerous business owners and homeowners, and the president of the East Weymouth Neighborhood Association — McLaughlin promised to make changes, McCabe said.

McLaughlin submitted new plans on Aug. 5 that shrank the size of the new building by about 160 square feet, she said, and reduced the total number of apartments to 15.

The new project also eliminates much of the micro-apartment concept.

Only one of the apartments would be a studio, with 370 square feet of space. The rest of the apartments would be one-bedrooms, ranging from about 430 to 460 square feet, she said.

McLaughlin did not return numerous calls for comment on the project and the process. His attorney, David Kelly of Braintree, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Kelly had noted during the June hearing before the Weymouth zoning board that the state Department of Veterans’ Services supported the project because it could provide housing for veterans. However, he said the project does not have a contract to rent to veterans.

The Board of Zoning Appeals has scheduled a hearing on the revised plan for Wednesday at 7 p.m. The project needs a special permit because it proposes a multifamily use in a business zone, McCabe said.

She said the town’s planning policy encourages development with mixed uses — commercial and residential — in Weymouth’s village centers, including Jackson Square.

The existing building at 1434 Pleasant St. was built in 1920 and sits on an 0.18-acre lot, according to the Weymouth assessors’ office. The owner of the property, which is assessed at $298,700, is listed as the Striano family.

The proposed development plans list My Journey’s End of Quincy as the developer and Choo & Co. Inc. of Quincy as the architects.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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