KEYPORT — A hearing and final approval for a dense development of 24 two-bedroom apartments on Green Grove Avenue, called Baypoint, was scrapped because two Planning Board members had conflicts of interest.
This is the issue: anyone on the planning board cannot vote on any aspect of a proposal if they live within 200 feet of property where the work is proposed. Not only can they not vote, but they are automatically disqualified from participating in the hearing as a member of the board.
In this case, two board members John Kovacs and his daughter Jacqueline Kovacs-Olsen both sat through hearings, advocated for design elements and voted in straw polls. Kovacs lives on 8th Street across from Green Grove Gardens, the owners of which are developing Baypoint. His daughter is a co-owner of the home.
“I just didn’t realize,” said Kovacs, on Thursday. “I never got the notice.”
The notice to which Kovacs, who is openly in favor of the project, referred is a document required by law to be mailed by developer explaining the proposal to every person who lives within 200 feet of a proposed project regardless if it is a small zoning approval for an existing single family home or a massive site plan for a new development.
Kovacs believes one of his daughters likely received that mailing because they own his 8th Street house, but no longer live in the home.
Kovacs-Olsen, who is one of the homeowners, did not attend the Thursday hearing.
Their participation essentially nullified previous proceedings.
Parking a neighborhood concern
The Baypoint development team did not attend the board session Thursday.
They left the planning board last month with several questions of design, including sewer connections, recreational facilities and parking still looming.
The parking issue is what brought Erin Tornetto and a neighbor to the board session Thursday night.
She lives on on Fulton Street at 8th Street next to the Green Grove apartments.
A proposed parking lot would be built next to her home.
The owners of the garden apartment complex want to turn an unused lot, where there was once a pool, into a parking lot, which is next to Tornetto’s backyard.
Street parking is at a premium in the neighborhood because there is not enough parking within the apartment complex. There’s no question that more parking is needed, but Tornetto questions the location, which is tucked behind trash bins, and an existing parking lot along 8th Street.
“How are they even going to get in?” she said.
Tornetto was in favor of the proposed two-bedrooms, but not the parking.
“I thought it would be a good extension of the neighborhood,” she said. “It was better than the trailers.”
But, the notice (the same kind Kovacs said he didn’t receive) didn’t mention a parking lot in her backyard because explicit details of a project are not required.
“I didn’t think it pertained to me,” she said of the project and its full scope.”But we don’t want a parking lot.”
Tonetto said she couldn’t have imagined that a parking lot would be built next to her backyard when she bought her home. Her property abuts the Chingarora Creek wetlands, and she knew that there was not going to be any development behind her.
To be sure, the question of whether the parking lot can even be built is undecided. The state Department of Environmental Protection needs to mark out a conservation easement before the lot can be built.
For his part, Kovacs was a strong advocate for the parking lot at the August planning board meeting. He even encouraged the developers to build any size parking lot on land not marked for protection by state officials.
Tornetto said she and neighbors will return to the Planning Board on Oct. 22 when the approval process for Baypoint restarts. Kovacs and Kovacs-Olsen will not participate in this second round.