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January 13. 2014 8:07PM

Salem Zoning Board supports plan to turn home into condo units

SALEM — The Zoning Board of Adjustment has given its OK for a four-unit condominium proposal at 232 Lawrence Road, despite concerns among abutters that it does not fit in with the character of the residential neighborhood.

Plans to change the single-family home with an attached barn containing two in-law apartments to four condominium units will still have to go before the Planning Board for approval.

ZBA members said they believed the proposal was a more workable one than one for five apartment units that was denied last November.

The building and 17-acre parcel of land is owned by John Belko Sr. The front house portion of the building has been vacant for a number of years, while the two in-law apartments are currently occupied by members of Belko’s family, according to attorney Bernard Campbell.

The ZBA originally granted the variance for the in-law apartments in 1983. The house sits in a residential zone that allows only single-family homes and duplexes by right.

Although those in-law units are occupied, Campbell said the bigger issue has been with the unoccupied front house portion of the building, which is in major need of renovations.

Campbell said the condominium proposal addresses some issues originally raised by abutters during the November hearing by reducing the number of units and changing the units from rentals to privately owned condominium units.

However, several residents said they are still not happy about having a multi-family building in the neighborhood and urged the ZBA to deny the variance.

Speaking on behalf of several abutters, Selectman James Keller said he did not believe the variance request met the hardship conditions necessary to grant a variance.

“There are other opportunities,” Keller said. “That home can be renovated and modified to take advantage of that single-family home.”

ZBA Chairman Gary Azarian voted in favor of the variance, noting that one of the deciding factors was that he did not believe adding one unit would be a detriment to the neighborhood, especially since Belko was not proposing to change the footprint or add on to the existing building.

“I think there is less impact on that parcel and less impact on the neighborhood to keep the original square footage and let them do what they are going to do rather than having them put up five or six new houses,” said Azarian.

Board member Steve Diantgikis voted against the five-unit apartment proposal and said he was initially on the fence about the condominium proposal, but eventually voted in favor of it.

“I just don’t want to see any more development of the property,” he said.

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