Despite concerns over a lack of parking, the Haverhill City Council gave approval last night to the construction of an 18-unit apartment building on the site of the former Arthur Sharp Hardware store on Middlesex Street near the Roma Restaurant.
Developer Alan Sfeir petitioned the Council to approve three zoning ordinance waivers for his riverfront property plan. Those included allowing 18 units on the quarter-acre site which is only zoned for five, allowing a 91-foot-tall building where there is a height restriction of 55 feet and allowing 18 parking spaces rather than the required 27. Adding to the parking issue, the developer previously agreed to a stipulation he provide access to the Mayor James J. Fiorentini Bradford Rail Trail including providing spaces for public parking.
While councilors were supportive of the project overall, it was the parking issue that caused many of them to balk. Adding to their concerns was a tentative plan to dedicate five parking spaces during the day for the public to visit the rail trail. Councilor William J. Macek urged the provision be removed.
“I think that’s a terrible idea and I think that it can only lead to problems. Why can’t the public park on the street? I don’t like that part. Personally, it almost makes me not want to vote for this as much as I love the project,” he said.
Faced with councilors concerns, Sfeir told them he would push to have the public parking requirement eliminated.
“I understood that we are providing access through the building to the bike trail but not parking. I’m with you 100% on that. It does complicate matters. I don’t support that. I will definitely focus on not doing that,” he promised.
Sfeir said he expects construction to begin within the next six to eight months and be ready for occupancy in less than two years. He said each unit will be about 1,000 square feet and will rent for approximately $2,000 per month.
With Sfeir’s promise to work at eliminating the public parking requirement and his acceptance of an additional requirement by Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward that the building’s sewer service be connected to an existing sewer main downstream from the building, the Council voted 6-2 to grant the waivers with Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua opposed. Councilor Colin F. LePage was absent.