Three lots along Howe Avenue — between Maltby Street and the Route 8 corridor - have been rezoned for residential use.

The Planning & Zoning Commission — in a 5-1 vote, with commissioner Mark Widomski opposed, on Tuesday, Feb. 11 — approved a city request that the three lots, 248 to 260 Howe Avenue, be rezoned from a CB-2 to an R-3 zone.

This move, according to city planners, brings the existing multifamily units into further compliance with zoning regulations and keep a commercial operation from entering the residential neighborhood. Presently, two multifamily homes sit on either side of a vacant lot, which is owned by the city and on the market.

Kevin Lantowsky of Howard Avenue, a city fire inspector and self-proclaimed representative of the property at 248-250 Howe Avenue, right next to the Route 8 expressway, had opposed the rezone plan during the commission’s public hearing on this application Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Lantowsky stated that the city’s desire to sell its lot is driving this rezone request to the detriment of the neighbors. Interim P&Z Administrator Ken Nappi told the commission Feb. 11 that Lantowsky had sent a letter to Mayor Mark Lauretti expressing interest in purchasing the vacant lot.

Widomski opposed the proposal, saying that this zone change would take away an owner’s rights to what he wishes with his own property.

Lantowsky said that the present owners of 248-250 Howe Avenue purchased the property less than a year ago with hopes of establishing some type of commercial operation and the zone change would have a negative impact on the neighboring property owners.

Nappi said that the city’s recommendation is that commercial uses are “not feasible or compatible” for that area.

Zoning consultant Tony Panico recommended the zone change from commercial to residential, in part, to protect the neighboring homeowners.

“The current (CB-2) zone is the most generous commercial zone in city,” said Panico, leaving the door open for a gas station or other similar commercial establishment to come in. “Things could go in that would not fit with the residential area yet are allowed as a matter of right.”

Panico said a residential zone would be more conforming to the street.

“Doing this (zone change) guards against potentially negative impacts that the commission would not be able to say no to that could possibly be totally out of character between the two homes,” added Panico.

The 0.15-acre property at 252-254 Howe Avenue was foreclosed on by the city years ago after a fire destroyed the multi-unit apartment structure that had since been razed. The site is located across from Wharf Street, or the Route 8 southbound exit ramp, and is located between two multifamily buildings. The Board of Aldermen approved putting the lot on the market in May.