Carlysle may close, may sue

April 18, 2008
By

David Taber


Gazette Photo by John Swan
Trucks parked on the sidewalk being unloadesd bt a Carlysle Engineering forklift block Brookside Avenue earlier this month.

Some concerned with street use as Green St. plan clears another hurdle

BROOKSIDE—Carlysle Engineering, one of the last industrial interests in Jamaica Plain’s Brookside neighborhood, has vowed to file a lawsuit and may pack up shop if a proposed mixed-use development goes up across the street.

“I could sell this land and retire on the profits,” Richard Dibona of Carlysle Engineering said in a Gazette interview.

At another point in the interview, Dibona speculated that Carlysle might be “forced to move” out of the city because of residential encroachment.

He also reiterated a statement made at a recent community meeting that he would take legal action to block the development on Green Street between Brookside Avenue and Amory Street if it receives the zoning variances and permits necessary to begin construction.

One of the 50-year-old industrial fire safety equipment company manager’s concerns is based on his company’s longtime practice of using the Green Street end of Brookside Avenue to load and unload trucks. The proposed development would include a driveway exiting onto that same section of Brookside.

Some residential neighbors say Carlysle’s use of the street causes major congestion.

While it is unclear if Carlysle has ever been cited for its activities on the street, the practice of using a public right-of-way for loading and unloading trucks is technically not allowed, said Colleen Keller, JP Liaison from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.

According to Dibona, Carlysle trucks and forklifts are usually in the streets “first thing in the morning or if we receive a delivery in the middle of the day.”

The development proposal that has Carlysle concerned is a bid by JP-based Maple Hurst Builders to construct a three-and-a-half story building with 13 residential units and three retail storefront units on a vacant lot on 154-160 Green St.

The proposed development has been moving through the design review and permitting process in recent months and has enjoyed widespread support from residential neighbors. It underwent Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) small project design review and received approval from the BRA board of directors early this month. On April 10, it was approved by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee.

Carlysle, at 132 Brookside Ave., is right across the street from where Maple Hurst plans to build a driveway leading to a 16-space underground residential garage.

At a number of community meetings about the development, Dibona has voiced opposition to Maple Hursts’ bid to build a residential development in an industrially zoned area as well the developer’s requests for multiple variances for the project.

In a letter addressed to BRA Project Manager Lance Campbell, who oversaw the design review, Dibona wrote, “[O]ur need to provide 24-hour emergency service requires us to be ready to move at any time during the day or night. A residential use abutting our property would likely restrict us from doing this…and hinder our ability to service our customers.”

Though he did not specifically say in the letter how a nearby residential development would hinder Carlysle’s operation, speaking to the Gazette, Dibona did say that the driveway is a concern.

“The driveway is right across the street. He gains, I lose,” Dibona said.

He also said he does not believe that Carlysle’s use of the street for loading and unloading trucks is illegal. “As far as I know it is legal, you can load and unload trucks all day long,” he said.

Keller, representatives from local City Councilor John Tobin’s office and from the District E-13 Police Station Community Service Office all said they could not recall fielding any complaints about Carlysle’s use of the street.

The development project enjoys wide support amongst residential neighbors who are hopeful the retail portion of the project will attract a coffee shop or some other neighborhood-oriented business to help bring the community together.

In part because of Carlysle’s high-profile opposition to the Maple Hurst project, some residential neighbors are starting to express concerns about the fire safety company’s behavior.

“For years they have just run the traffic the way they want,” Marmion Street resident Ken Dorsey told the Gazette.

The street is “like an obstacle course with illegally parked trucks,” he said.

When walking down Brookside, Dorsey said, he often has had to walk in the street.

Susan Harter, head of the Brookside Neighborhood Association (BNA), said generally, opinions are mixed about Carlysle’s use of the street. “Some people are upset about the trucks and the noise, and some people say he was here first,” she said.

At community meetings, other BNA members have expressed interest in meeting with Carlysle to discuss the relationship between the business and the residents.

Maple Hurst principal Chris DeSisto said he has been in negotiations with Carlysle as well to try to resolve their differences and avoid the “further legal action” that Dibona has repeatedly threatened if the project goes through.

While he would not specify what points the two parties are negotiating, DeSisto said he did not think competition for the use of Brookside Avenue would be a problem.

While he said waiting for Carlysle to move their trucks might be inconvenient for residents at the new development, “Carlysle has been doing business there for a long time, and folks have learned to live with it.”

As far as his project placing an undue burden on Carlysle, “I disagree with the contention that a dozen people pulling out [onto Brookside] will cause an undue effect on their operation. A, it’s only about 12 people. B, the trucks shouldn’t be there anyway,” DeSisto said.

Several acres of formerly industrial land in the Brookside neighborhood have been turned into housing since the mid-1990s. In the area of Cornwall and Amory streets and Brookside Avenue just a block down from Carlysle, scores of units have been built or renovated, much of it as artist live/work space. Some of that housing and the JP Cohousing complex are located on the site of a former junkyard that was on both sides of Cornwall Street.

Hearings

The Green Street project was approved by the JPNC Zoning Committee on April 10 with the provisions that Maple Hurst continue to work with neighbors on developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The committee stressed that Maple Hurst should work with the neighborhoods on the opposite side of Green Street—including on Brookside Avenue Extension and Union Avenue—and on Green Street as well as those on the Brookside Avenue side.

They also said the conversation about the MOU should include discussion of what kind of businesses will go into the three retails spaces being developed.

“Mixed use is much more preferable, but not if it ends up as office space,” said Zoning Committee member Stephanie Ward.

Committee member Red Burrows, the only dissenting vote, said the JPNC’s Housing and Development Committee had previously voted not to support the project because it’s proposed affordable housing component is to low.

Maple Hurst is proposing that two of the 13 residential condominium units be made affordable.

Burrows cast the only dissenting vote in the Zoning Committee’s approval.

Maple Hurst has a hearing scheduled before the city’s zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA)—the body empowered to grant zoning variances— April 29.

That is the same day as the next full meeting of the JPNC, when that body intends to weigh in on the project. In most cases, the ZBA defers approval of projects if the JPNC has not issued a recommendation.

Sandra Storey contributed to this article.