Third time’s the charm?

August 29, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

Controversial developer plans 3rd house at Green and Elm

GREEN ST.—Developer Andrew Mulligan, who early this year got in a spat with abutters over the construction of a house at 1 Elm St., is set to build a third house on that same large parcel at the corner of Green and Elm streets.

Work was briefly stopped on the 1 Elm St. project in January after numerous complaints from neighbors about work being done on Saturdays and about a possible violation of the city’s zoning code.

At a community meeting held to review plans for the new house Aug. 7, Mulligan said the 1 Elm St. house was never in violation of the zoning code, and the decision to change it had been a matter of expediency.

Regardless, the city is taking a special interest in Mulligan’s plans for the third house on the lot.

The parcel is in an area zoned as a Neighborhood Design Overlay District. Normally, for new construction in the district, notice is sent by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) and the council can choose to review the project, Colleen Keller, JP coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, told the Gazette.

She said she did not know if the BRA had contacted the JPNC regarding the previous two houses.

Because of the controversy regarding 1 Elm, however, Keller decided to directly call a meeting between Mulligan and the abutters about the new house, she said.

“I wanted to have a public meeting with abutters to let them know that their voice counts,” she said.

About 10 people attended the meeting, and by that time, BRA Senior Architect Michael Canizzo, had already reviewed and recommended significant changes to Mulligan’s plans.

Based on those recommendations, Mulligan said, he scrapped plans for two 20-by-30-foot townhouses on the lot. Instead, Mulligan said, he now plans to build one 26-by-30-foot multi-story house with two condominium units in it.

The footprint will be “almost identical to the existing units,” on the lot, he said.

At the meeting, Mulligan repeatedly said that quality design would be a priority for the project, mentioning that decorative woods and copper would be prominent in the exterior design. He also seemed amenable to neighbors’ suggestions that the front porch would be more aesthetically pleasing if it was extended to the corner of the house.

“The majority of the neighborhood was disappointed with the design of the first two buildings,” JPNC and Sumner Hill Association member Carlos Icaza said at the meeting.

“I don’t think the first two would have sold for what they sold for if they were hideous,” Mulligan said.

Alyce Chen of 100 Seaverns Ave., who filed the complaints that led to work being temporarily halted on the 1 Elm St. house in January, said she is hopeful this project will go more smoothly.

“We are trying to start this project off on the right foot,” she said.

“It sounds all good, according to the plan,” her husband, Neal Chen, said.

The Chens’ house abuts the 1 Elm St. house. One of their complaints about that construction was it was being built too close to theirs. At issue was whether a wall that was supposed to be 10 feet away from their house, was, in fact, 10 feet away or was inches closer.

Mulligan said at the meeting that since the two walls were not exactly parallel to each other, the rule is the average distance between the two hoses has to be 10 feet.

The two houses were an average of 10 feet 8 inches apart, he said. His decision to reframe the allegedly offending wall so that it was 10 feet away at its closest point was based on expediency and financial concerns, he said.

No work on the new house will be done on Saturdays, he said.

“There is no way on God’s green Earth the city would give us permits” for Saturday work, he said.