Another lot cleared of trees

November 30, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

PONDSIDE—The clear-cutting of a heavily wooded lot in the heart of Monument Square—reportedly to make a large parking lot—is worrying neighbors in the latest chapter of development-related tree loss in Jamaica Plain.

“We’re all really upset about it,” said Bardwell Street resident Roberta Stone, whose condo building abuts the formerly wooded lot behind 780 Centre St. Her concern is that a large lot may mean large commercial uses.

Stone said a worker on the site told her the clear-cutting is for a parking lot that will take up most of the 3,000-square-foot site. She said there was no notice to abutters or posting of parking-related permits.

“If somebody owns land and wants to cut trees, that’s their prerogative,” said Stone, who is also a Realtor. “But when you take a 3,000-square-foot lot and are turning it into a parking lot with no permit or notice, I have a problem with that.”

Michael A. Burke, a South End real estate company head whose trust recently bought the property, did not return a Gazette phone call for this article. Neither did the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

Burke bought 780 Centre along with 772 and 776. The three houses drew controversy this summer when the former owners evicted residents and businesses, who were paying generally affordable rents, in preparation for the sale.

The former owners were various heirs of Joseph DeLuca of Beacon Hill’s famous DeLuca’s Market. The property sale was part of their many legal disputes, with Burke acquiring the houses through a probate court bidding process.

The sale closed around mid-October, and renovations on the houses quickly began. Burke’s broker, Ed Sullivan, previously told the Gazette that some type of renovation was planned, rather than demolition. However, the exact uses remain unclear.

The sale also included the wooded lot behind 780 Centre, listed in city assessing records as 33 South St. though it does not touch any street. The 3,027-square-foot back yard included several large trees and many other trees and shrubs.

The tree-cutting began about a week after the property sale, and the stumps were removed about two weeks ago, Stone said.

“The trees were removed and workers stated that the new owners were going to make a parking lot,” she said in an e-mail to the Gazette. She noted there is no driveway into the lot now.

Concern about tree-cutting in JP for redevelopments and parking spaces has grown over the past few years, particularly over hot-button sites on Nira Avenue and Paul Gore, Bynner and Custer streets. The controversy inspired the formation of the local group JP Trees, which is attempting to develop some type of tree-protection regulation.

“It’s so easy for developers or homeowners to just cut trees without any
questions asked, without justification to anyone,” Ockene said.

Tree-cutting for “the convenience of machinery and asphalt” is common in JP, Ockene said. That has multiple negative impacts, she said, including lower property values, increased energy costs, higher air pollution levels and more rainwater run-off.