WATERTOWN — The city’s Planning Board gave local businessman Bobby Ferris the green light to finish up a parking lot project on outer Washington Street that he had begun, but had not received the go-ahead to start.
The Planning Board on Monday gave site plan approval for a 2,700-square-foot parking lot expansion and a new retaining wall at a small plaza at 1511 Washington St.
Before granting approval for the work to continue, Planning Board members admonished Mr. Ferris for starting the work before they could act on the project.
“I have to ask the question,” Planning Board Chairman Larry Coburn said. “How did you get this started because it’s almost done?”
After the meeting, Planning Board member Kerry W. Johnson scolded Mr. Ferris.
“Bob, don’t do that again,” he said.
Mr. Ferris responded he thought he needed just a site plan waiver because all he was doing was making improvements to the parking lot, something neighbors were glad to see.
But Michael A. Lumbis, the city planning and community development director, later told him the project must go through a full site plan approval process because the changes to the parking lot were significant.
The parking lot project includes a new retaining wall and drainage system that takes up more space than the 2,500 square feet limit, Mr. Lumbis said.
Before voting, Planning Board member Neil Katzman said he still had some concerns that the larger parking lot would cause more flooding on to Washington Street from the plaza. Mr. Lumbis said City Engineer Michael Delaney had determined he didn’t have any issue with the changes.
The expanded parking lot will accommodate the VA Center moving from its offices in the Liberty Building on Court Street to the plaza.
In explaining the situation, Mr. Ferris said he just received word three weeks ago from the federal agency that the move was definitely going to happen. He now has about 120 days to get the 5,000 feet of space ready for the move, so he had to act fast on the project, he told the Planning Board.
Mr. Ferris owns the plaza with local businessman Jake Johnson.