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DeLuca's Market denied support to expand basement as neighborhood concerns continue

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  February 6, 2013 02:44 PM

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More than two years after a fire ravaged DeLuca’s Market on Charles Street, the store is still not fully operational as its owner and Beacon Hill residents continue to debate renovation plans and other operating issues.

Virgil Aiello, the market’s owner, went before a special meeting of the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Zoning and Licensing Committee last Tuesday to present plans to extend the shop’s retail space in the basement.

The excavated back section of the shop’s basement increased the building’s floor area ratio, requiring the shop to receive a variance from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal as well as an extension of non-conforming use because the line designating commercial and residential areas runs through the middle of the 107-year-old shop.

The rest of the basement was already usable by the store, and its wine cellar reopened in September.

“Not only is that space necessary in order to make the store viable and to be of service to the community, but also to be of service to the handicapped,” said Aiello, who presented plans to build a elevator along with a handicap accessible unisex bathroom in the basement space.

The committee voted to oppose granting the zoning relief as residents and neighbors continued to express concerns about various points on the good neighbor agreement that Aiello would have to sign in order to for the committee to not oppose the changes.

The market has scheduled a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeal February 12 at its 9:30 a.m. session.

Throughout the renovation process, residents have raised concerns about the shop’s trash storage and disposal, pest control, health violations, and the use of the alley behind the store.

“Our concern is that the continued operation and the expansion of the operation is going to continue the encroachment on our property,” said John Bowman, chairman of buildings and grounds for King’s Chapel, which shares an alley with DeLuca’s.

Bowman said the store frequently parks a truck in the alley, violating a 1947 agreement that limits access to the alley to foot traffic and deliveries by hand carts, and blocking the building’s fire exit.

Even without the 1947 agreement, Bowman said, “You cannot park a vehicle in here without encroaching on our property.”

Aiello said he would agree to several of the 14-item draft agreement, such as maintaining good pest control, limiting truck deliveries to Charles Street, and keeping garbage inside overnight, work with King's Chapel to come to an agreement on use of the alley between the two buildings.

Residents also said they were still frustrated by a lack of comprehensive and concrete plans, noting they did not want to consider the renovation projects piecemeal.

Thomas P. Hopkins, director of the state’s Architectural Access Board also said the board has not been presented with full, detailed plans of the store, and that the board was just shown the presented plans the day before.

“We have a standing decision for a different plan that was submitted to us for the handicap access for this store,” he said.

Those plans have the elevator in a different location and the bathroom on the first floor, but the board has scheduled a hearing in April to consider the new design.

“We too have been subjected to last minute changes and sort of an inability to understand accessibility as a whole for the floor plan of the store,” Hopkins said.

While Aiello said the store was about 75 percent complete, Hopkins said that unless the store receives a variance, it cannot be open until it is handicap accessible.

Aiello also said he would like to install a cooler in an area of the building that serves a residential apartment. Neighbors have opposed the store using the space before and the committee refused to consider the proposal because it was not on the agenda.

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