The owner of a Perkins Street inn who wanted to legalize the 11 beds he already has and add several more had his proposal rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeal today.
The board actually voted 4-1 in favor of Dar Sandler's request to formally designate the Perkins Inn property at 32 Perkins St. as a boutique hotel, but state law requires at least five votes for formal zoning-board approval.
The board had six members present earlier in the day, but member Craig Galvin left before the hearing. A City Council committee chaired by Michelle Wu (at large) has bottled up appointments of five new alternate members to fill vacant seats at hearings over the issue of marijuana-shop zoning.
Before the hearing, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo - who cast the dissenting vote - told Sandler and his zoning advisor, Chris Tracy that the board was short of members and that they could request a deferment to a later date because of the issue. Tracy said he would go forward.
Immediately after the vote, Tracy asked for a deferment, but Araujo told him he knew he should have asked for one before the hearing and that it was now too late - the board had voted and that vote means Sandler has to wait a year before he can seek permission again. The proponent of at least one other project asked for a deferral today before his hearing because of the vote issue.
Sandler has been running a former three-family home at 32 Perkins St. as a B&B for almost a year now. Tracy said that city officials do not formally recognize B&Bs with more than four bedrooms and advised him and his client to ask for zoning permission to run the property as a "boutique hotel" - especially with new city regulations in place that restrict short-term rentals.
In addition, Sandler wanted to raze a carriage house behind the house and put in a new but similar structure to add six more beds. His proposal called for five or six parking spaces; Sandler said most of his guests don't drive to and from the inn.
The mayor's office, city councilors Matt O'Malley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty and Hyde Jackson Main Streets supported the proposal, as did some residents who attended the meeting, who said the inn would increase foot traffic to nearby shops and restaurants and that Sandler has been an ardent supporter of local non-profit groups and schools.
But some residents also opposed the proposal, saying that, especially with a marijuana dispensary possibly moving into the old Bella Luna bowling alley, that the area doesn't need more traffic and that Perkins Street is seeing more people parking there with New York and Pennsylvania plates - which they say means the spaces at the inn site aren't enough. They also argued that Perkins is zoned for two-family homes, not denser hotels, that the property would not quality for the city's short-term rental program because Sandler doesn't live there, and that approval would set a precedent for taking more rental units out of the area's already tight rental supply.
Board member Mark Erlich voted for the proposal, but questioned why Sandler waited until now to seek approval, especially since he was paying lower residential property tax rates on the property even though he'd been running it as a business for almost a year. "It does feel a little bit after the fact," he said. Tracy said Sandler was basically only doing what city officials advised him to.