Dental building reviews begin

April 4, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

FOREST HILLS—City attorneys are reviewing controversial Inspectional Services Department (ISD) decisions in recent years that allowed large-scale expansion of the Bicon dental company building at 501 Arborway.

Meanwhile, the Boston Parks Commission is conducting an overdue review of a third floor added to the building a few years ago, according to Brian McLaughlin, the commission’s executive secretary.

Bicon is an internationally known dental implant company. In recent years it has expanded its building and added a lab and training courses without public meetings or outreach.

For at least a year, ISD officials told unhappy neighbors that all of Bicon’s construction and use were allowed under zoning code. But, pressured by a December Boston City Council hearing, ISD began acknowledging that it was wrong on at least several counts.

Most notably, ISD last month cited Bicon for the training and lab uses, saying they are not allowed. ISD repeatedly said before that they were allowed, and that there was no evidence that the widely advertised training courses existed anyway.

Last year, ISD also cited Bicon for a front-yard sign, acknowledging it failed to notice it was in violation. The sign should have received Parks Commission review, too.

ISD also recently changed its tune about the need for Parks Commission review of the addition.

McLaughlin said Bicon recently submitted plans and other information so that the Parks Commission staff can review the addition and the sign. The review is only advisory, and it is unclear how meaningful it will be retroactively.

Nearby residents remain concerned about other ISD decisions. A major one is controversy over whether the entire Bicon building should have received even more extensive Parks Commission review under a “greenbelt preservation overlay district” (GPOD) along the Arborway, which is a historic parkway. ISD says the building is not in the GPOD, while neighbors argue that it is.

Residents Jerry O’Connor and David Vaughn took their concerns to the city’s zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) last week, asking for an official interpretation of ISD’s decisions.

The ZBA passed the list of concerns along to the city’s legal department for an official opinion in what David Isberg, chief of staff for City Councilor John Tobin, called standard practice.

The legal department’s decision could come later this month, while the Parks Commission review was scheduled to be done this week.