Late last week Testa's attorney, Charles Willinger, filed a related request with the city to change the zoning of his client's restaurant from residential to office/retail general.
"Already?" said Dee Manento, one of several neighbors of Testa's North End restaurant, Testo's, who earlier this month failed to convince Zoning Commission members to deny his efforts to label the site at Madison and Westfield avenues as mixed use.
Willinger on Friday said fears his clients -- Testa and partners Ralph and Marilia Giacobbe -- want to expand or sell are unfounded.
"We don't plan on one change," Willinger said. "The neighbors will never know the difference."
For decades, restaurants have called the location home, but the use has been grandfathered into a mostly residential neighborhood.
Testa has repeatedly tried and failed to change the zoning since opening Testo's in the mid-2000s. But his success convincing the commissioners to grant a rare master plan change means he has a better chance with the current zoning application, Willinger said.
"I think the same commission should, logically, see our commercial use would be consistent with the master plan," Willinger said.
Willinger said Testa needs the master plan and zoning changes to refinance. He said the bank his client is working with advised Testa that if a fire destroyed over 50 percent of the eatery, the owners would need a zoning variance to reopen.
There are no guarantees the variance would be granted. And even if one were granted, it could be appealed, leaving Testa's livelihood in limbo, Willinger said.
"It's not right for a commercial structure that predated the residences in that area," Willinger said.
Willinger acknowledged the zoning change will make the property more marketable. Zoning would allow a church or small office building.
Most other potential uses would require additional zoning approvals.
"But that's irrelevant because it's not on the market (and) we have no intention of selling," he said.
Manento said the neighborhood, which has clashed repeatedly with Testa, does not trust him. "They can sell the moon," she said.
Opponents also worry that Testa, because of his position running the city's Democratic Party, has political advantage with city officials.
A majority of the all-Democrat City Council did refuse to take advantage of an opportunity to weigh in on the master plan change, although member Michelle Lyons, D-134, who represents the North End, wrote the zoning commissioners a letter opposing Testa's application.
And by refusing to make a recommendation, the full council triggered a requirement that a super-majority of zoning commissioners back Testa's master plan change, rather than a simple majority.
One of the commissioners who made the strongest case for Testa was Chairman Mel Riley, a Republican. Willinger said Testa should not be penalized because he happens to be in politics.
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