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Revere

Zoning change a first step to development

A zoning change in Revere has opened the way for commercial or mixed-use development of a 28.6-acre site on the Saugus line.

The change, adopted by the City Council Dec. 5 and signed by Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino, rezoned the area from a single-family residential district to a highway business district.

The site, near Clifton Street, at one time was occupied by dog kennels, but is now vacant except for a single-family home. The area is commonly referred to as Caddy Farm, although it has not been used for farming in recent memory.

The zoning change was proposed by Caddy Farms LLC, which owns about 19 acres of the site, and Ledgeview Trust, which owns just under 3 acres, according to Lawrence A. Simeone Jr., attorney for both groups.

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Simeone said Caddy Farms and Ledgeview Trust are interested in jointly pursuing a commercial or mixed commercial and residential development of the site.

“My clients were very thankful for the opportunity to work with the city of Revere and to have them as potential proponents for the future development of the site,’’ he said.

About five years ago, Caddy Farms proposed a 29-lot subdivision on its land. But the Planning Board rejected the proposal because of concern about the developer’s plan for bringing water service to the site. A court upheld the board’s decision, according to Simeone.

“The effort at this stage is to reach out to the marketplace and see what type of commercial development can be attracted to the site,’’ he said, observing that many municipalities favor commercial growth now because it brings in more tax revenue than residential development, and generates fewer costs for towns.

He said the City Council appeared to share the view of his clients that the zoning change was a “good first step’’ toward developing the site.

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Simeone said it is possible the future development could also extend to an adjacent 4 acres that Caddy Farms owns in Saugus. The firm received approval in Saugus in 2004 to build a 72-unit residential development on that smaller parcel under the state’s affordable-housing law, Chapter 40B. But the project has not gone forward.

Simeone cautioned that there are a number of significant issues his clients must still address before they can proceed with any development of the Caddy Farm land.

One is to seek consensus with the three other owners of the land on pursuing a commercial or mixed development for the overall site, and failing such an agreement, to find how the interests of those other owners might be accommodated.

The three other owners are Vietnamese Gospel Outreach Ministry, NE, which, according to Revere planning director Frank Stringi, is seeking building permits to erect a church on its land; and the owner of the single-family home and his son, who have adjoining parcels.

Another key issue will be finding a way to provide additional access to the site.

Currently, the site is reachable only through two residential dead-end streets, one in Saugus and one in Revere. At a council meeting, Saugus neighbors voiced concerns about the impact of trucks and other traffic on their quiet streets if a large development went forward, according to Stringi.

Simeone said his clients intend to build a new primary access route into the site, one that connects directly to Route 1 in Saugus.

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“If anybody wants to put in a large-scale development, common sense dictates that Route 1 access would be a high priority,’’ he said.

The Revere Planning Board had recommended against the rezoning, citing a need for more information on how Route 1 access to the site would be provided, Stringi said.

As a highway business district, the site could be developed for retail or limited industrial use. Rental or condominium apartments, and town house units are also allowed, but only on 10 or more acres and by special permit.

At Simeone’s suggestion, the council added the special permit requirement for apartments units in all highway business districts.

Stringi said the site is challenging to develop, given its limited roadway access and its relative isolation from the rest of Revere; the land is bordered by railroad tracks and a utility right of way.

Mayor Ambrosino said he supported the rezoning because “I don’t think a bunch of single-family homes on that huge parcel is the highest and best use.’’ He added, though, “My guess is that development of that site is a long way off.’’

Mayor-elect Daniel Rizzo, currently a councilor at large, said the rezoning made sense because “that area could be a great source of commercial tax revenue for the city if it’s marketed and presented the right way.’’

Scott Crabtree, chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen, said his board is concerned about the traffic impact a future development at the site might have on nearby residential streets in Saugus.

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At their meeting Dec. 6, Saugus selectmen voted to ask town boards to provide them with any information about the potential development, and for the town’s counsel to review any relevant documents.