Pizza Plan Moves Ahead, Despite Community Angst

The lawyer for Woody’s Liquors, Daniel Toscano, said his client is moving forward with plans to open a takeout pizzeria inside the liquor store despite continued neighborhood opposition and opposition from East Boston’s three elected officials and the Mayor’s office.

Toscano, who filed for a common victuallers (CV) license to sell pizza in a part of the liquor store that has been recently subdivided, held an abutters meeting last Thursday at the East Boston Yacht Club. Toscano, whose client needed zoning relief back in June when the plan was to use about 1,500 sq. ft. of the liquor store as a pizzeria in a semi-open floor plan, is now arguing he does not need zoning.

“There is no zoning change needed,” said Toscano at last week’s meeting. “Subdividing the building and using half for the pizzeria was always an option and a takeout pizzeria is an allowed use according to the zoning codes.”

Toscano said that he sat down with a Boston Inspectional Services (ISD) plans examiner and was told zoning relief would not be needed because a pizzeria is an allowed use in an East Boston Neighborhood Shopping District (NSD).

However, residents in opposition to Woody’s plan like Mary Berninger of St. Andrews Road argued at last week’s meeting that ISD’s interpretation is flawed and that zoning relief would be needed.

Berninger argued that while a pizzeria is an ‘allowed use’ in the NSD, subdividing the liquor store and having a pizzeria with its own entrance would be a ‘new use’ thus subjecting the project to zoning relief due to insufficient parking.

Toscano said that because Woody’s is already an established business in the NSD the pizzeria would technically be an ‘existing use’ because a business already exists at the address. Tosascano said his client plans to use the address of the liquor store as the address of the pizzeria despite the pizzeria having its own entrance.

But Berninger argued that going from a liquor store to a pizzeria would be considered a change of use and therefore the pizzeria would be a new use in the NSD. With the new use, Woody’s would have to provide 4 off-street parking spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. of space.

According to Boston Zoning, if Woody’s wanted to expand his liquor store operation, an existing and allowed use in the NSD, that move would not be subjected to zoning relief. But Berninger’s argument that a pizzeria is a new use was widely accepted by the crowd opposed to the pizzeria plan.

“You needed zoning relief six months ago and now you don’t?” asked Alice Christopher. “It seems you are trying to find a loophole to circumvent the zoning you need.”

Recently, ISD listed violations for another project at 154 Maverick St. (the former Welfare Building) and subjected the developer to zoning relief due to insufficient parking.

There, owner Melissa Tyler plans to transform the aging office building into a multiple use of retail space, restaurant and offices spaces, all allowable uses in the NSD.

However, because she is changing the use of the building from offices to a new use of offices, retail space and restaurant she was subjected to zoning because she did not have adequate off-street parking.

In the case of Woody’s, whether the use is allowed is only part of the analysis according to the opposition. The fact that the new use of a pizzeria at the location may not be in compliance with city parking requirements, opponents are hoping ISD will address this concern before a CV license is granted.

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