Developers must now include ‘public benefits’
With a proposal to build a 4-story building on next week’s Beacon Planning Board agenda, City Council members on May 4 enacted regulations that tighten the requirements developers must meet to receive permits to construct such structures on Main Street.
Two years ago, the council adopted a law requiring a special-use permit to build four floors on Main. As of Monday, developers must add to their plans one or more public benefits — increased parking or affordable housing units, green building features or public spaces — that the council stipulates before receiving the permit.
“The amount of the public benefit — that decision is strictly within our discretion,” Mayor Lee Kyriacou said before the council’s unanimous vote. “You could offer a huge lot with a ton of parking or a public space and this council could still say, ‘No, thank you.’ ”
“It’s broad but it’s also vague,” added Council Member George Mansfield, noting that future councils may view a public benefit differently. “Whoever’s on council, two years or 10 years from now, those are the ones that are going to interpret that.”
A permit for a fourth floor must come from either the Planning Board or, when in or adjacent to the city’s historic district, from the City Council. A setback could also be required.
If the council approves a list of 35 buildings that are being considered for the historic district, nearly all of Main Street would fall under its jurisdiction for the special permit.
All permits for fourth floors will also require that the development have no “substantial” negative effects on sunlight, parking, traffic or scenic views considered “important” by the city.
The new regulations will apply on May 12, when the Planning Board will begin its review, by video conference, of a proposal to combine lots at 416 and 420 Main Street. According to materials submitted to the board, a building constructed on the site would include nearly 5,000 square feet of retail space (a portion of which is occupied by the Kitchen & Coffee cafe — formerly Ella’s Bellas — which will remain), along with nearly 8,000 square feet of office space on the second and third floors. The fourth floor would contain two apartments.
A second, two-story building in the rear of the lots would be a single-family home and an artist’s live/work space. The development would also include “a large green-space area,” according to the plans.
More housing is a public benefit. I am disappointed the Beacon City Council is so focused of keeping rents sky high in Beacon.