Wakefield 49ers host zoning-focused community meeting in Germantown

 During a March 2012 tour of the property, Ken Weinstein was outside the former Germantown Settlement Charter School's Creative & Performing Arts Center. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

During a March 2012 tour of the property, Ken Weinstein was outside the former Germantown Settlement Charter School's Creative & Performing Arts Center. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

At a Monday night community meeting, two property owners sought neighborhood-group support regarding variances for buildings located in the 4800 block of Germantown Ave.

The Wakefield 49ers Community Development and Improvement Association’s joint registered community organization (RCO) meeting was held at the Greatness Is in You Drama School, located in the former Germantown Settlement campus.

4811 Germantown Ave.

Germantown Settlement Charter School closed in 2009. Developer Ken Weinstein purchased the campus three years later.

He is now seeking a use variance for the three-story building which formerly housed the school’s administrative offices.

Located in a RSA-3 residential zoning district, the use variance would allow for the 8,591 square-foot space to be converted into 15 office suites ranging from 200 to 2,500 square feet.

Weinstein cited the building’s unique physical characteristics that make it difficult to develop for residential use.

Renovation and conversion is expected to cost roughly $450,000 and will include a full replacement of the building’s HVAC and plumbing systems.

Office suites will be modular in order to accommodate a variety of commercial and professional uses.

Fifty parking spaces located on the building’s grounds will be made available for employees and clients of tenants. The first floor of the building will be ADA accessible.

The Germantown United CDC board expressed additional support for the project, officially endorsing the development of the former school campus for commercial use.

While some local residents expressed concerns that development should include space for community use, others responded that such demands are unfair.

Weinstein said he is willing to work with the community to identify available space, but could make no guarantees that it would always be available.

There was no formal opposition to the proposed variance.

A Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19.

4833 Germantown Ave.

Frank Bruno purchased the three story home at 4833 Germantown Ave. last year.

He is seeking a use variance for the building’s first floor which, at the time of construction more than a century ago, was designed to accommodate a dentist’s office on one side and the dentist’s residence on the other.

Located in a CMX-2.5 mixed commercial and residential zoning district which requires that the first-floor commercial usage, the variance would allow Bruno to finish converting the home into three single-floor apartments.

Bruno was asked why the first floor can’t be rented for one of the uses already permitted. He cited the existing division of the first floor into two discrete spaces, and the lack of a market for commercial space in the area as hardships.

Bruno assured the meeting that he will actively involve himself in property management, and confirmed that individual rental units will not be subletted.

There was no formal opposition to the proposed variance. A hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 9.

Other issues

During the community-concerns portion of the meeting, Aine Doley expressed the ongoing worry that rental properties in the area are being used as rooming houses.

She cited quality of life and safety issues as reasons for the issue to be investigated and identified two possible rooming-house locations, one on West Rockland Street and another at Penn St. and Germantown Ave.

 The Wakefield 49ers also officially recognized neighborhood churches for providing support to community members in times of hardship.

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