HYDE SQUARE—After years of back and forth, Jamaica Plain Auto Body and its residential neighbors have negotiated a plan for the shop to expand and eliminate the smell of paint fumes emanating from the shop’s 18 Rock Hill Road location.
The body shop and the Cranston Street Neighborhood Association presented a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the parties had negotiated and shop owner Matthew Hayes showed scaled-back renovation plans at the March 27 meeting of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee meeting.
The Zoning Committee unanimously approved the project and Hayes will go before the city zoning Board of Appeal seeking final approval of its variances on April 8.
The body shop was grandfathered into a residential neighborhood and sits below a cliff. Cranston Street is on top of that cliff, and residents have complained for years about fumes from the shop’s chimney floating up to the cliff-top houses.
Hayes previously went before the Zoning Committee with his expansion plans in September, but the committee refused to approve them because he had not consulted with neighbors.
After that meeting, “Neighbors started working with Matt Hayes a little more closely,” said Colleen Keller, JP coordinator from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.
As a result of consultation with the community, Hayes agreed to make his project smaller, build with brick instead of steel and install a number of soundproofing mechanisms, Cranston Street resident Gretchen Van Ness, who presented the MOU to the Zoning Committee, told the Gazette.
To deal with the smell of paint fumes, Hayes agreed to get rid of them by switching to water-based paint, Van Ness said.
Neighborhood participation played a big role in convincing Hayes to switch to water-based paint, Van Ness said. Residents “went on field trips to other auto body shops” to observe and smell the water-based paint operations in action.
They found “there is less noise and it reduces fumes if it is working the way it is supposed to,” she said.
The water-based paint is also better for the environment, Van Ness said.
Hayes did not return Gazette phone calls by press time.
The community is still “holding its breath” in the hopes Hayes will abide by the MOU, Van Ness said.
Keller received a round of applause for her efforts at the Zoning Committee meeting, but speaking to the Gazette she downplayed her role in brokering the deal between Hayes and the neighbors, saying she “helped facilitate the last meeting.”