Genuine issues avoided at meeting

November 3, 2006
By

Your article in the Oct. 20 JP Gazette on the recent Blessed Sacrament hearing (“Lawyers enter church debate”) stated, “The hiring of lawyers was apparently intended to force more discussion.” Instead of “more,” one would better say “substantive” discussion, yet the developers, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and New Atlantic Development, still managed to avoid the genuine issues that concern the nearby community.

This was mirrored in the fact that vocal support for the development consisted largely of acclaim for the developer itself. In fact, I even recognized several faces from other similar meetings. Perhaps they have a cheering claque like opera singers used to hire. Scarcely a word of substance was uttered, certainly not by the final speaker, Richard Heath, whom the chair allowed to speak out of order and who forcefully engaged one’s emotions: “This is a city. It’s dense. It’s [full of] traffic. That’s why I love it!” (Mr. Heath resides in a quiet, tree-studded area of Forest Hills.)

In contrast, neighborhood concerns were voiced in terms of population density, project size, traffic impact and dubious zoning variances. My own personal concerns, besides the above, are the loss of large old trees and of the pleasing view from Centre Street—forever. The developers’ maps noted neither the present trees nor the current setback of the rectory vis-à-vis the street for comparison.

For Blessed Sacrament to become a development our community can truly be proud of and not a bastardized scarification, our Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) and its Zoning Committee must assure that closer attention be paid to the substantive issues.

Since the city tends to rubber-stamp neighborhood council decisions, this is the last-ditch forum in which citizens may confront Leviathan. If the developer ultimately gets the carte blanche “as-of-right” zoning it seeks (called a map amendment), it will signal an effective end to their ballyhooed “community process,” and there will be little further questioning any decisions on density, traffic and parking. We urge the JPNC to act accordingly.

Clark Johnsen
Jamaica Plain