By Kristin Schultz
The Lecce Group on Sept. 14 withdrew its plan to demolish a derelict house at the corner of Balltown Road and Union Street and build a new company headquarters.
“We made the decision after much consideration and some very lengthy conversations,” said Lecce Group Chief Operating Officer Shane Mahar. “There’s growing concern in the neighborhood about the project as proposed, so we decided to hit pause, pull back and evaluate the options.”
The proposal had been scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals because the property is in a residential district and the new building, though planned as a residence-style structure, would have required a use variance to be used as an office.
At the Aug. 31 meeting of the town Planning Board, some residents voiced opposition to the project. Among them was Union Street resident Robert Ruggeri, who said on Sept. 15 that he and other neighbors were pleased to hear the proposal had been withdrawn.
“We’re glad that Mr. Lecce has withdrawn the application,” Ruggeri said. “The neighbors are all very pleased because we were all opposing the project. The zoning district is strictly residential, and this would have been the first business in our neighborhood.”
Ruggeri also said that, had the zoning board granted the variance, he would have filed a lawsuit over the proposal.
The Lecce Group does not yet own the property at 1840 Union St.; it made the purchase offer contingent on the plan for the property being approved. Mahar said it’s too early to comment on the future of the property or on alternate projects the group might consider.
Mahar also said that, while the development group cannot withdraw every plan that encounters community opposition, pulling the project was the right call in this situation.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Mahar said. “We want what’s best for the corner and the community because we’re residents and taxpayers here, too. If a majority of the neighbors are concerned, it’s responsible to withdraw the project, hit pause and evaluate our options.”
The Lecce Group has three other proposals in various stages of approval in the town, including a mixed-use building on Eastern Parkway, apartments behind the Rite-Aid on Rosendale Road and a two-house subdivision at the corner of Pearse Road and Whitney Drive.