The residents of Yale Terrace would like to express their gratitude to the Jamaica Plain Gazette and particularly to reporter John Ruch for his thorough coverage of the actions of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) regarding the Bicon dental building development in Forest Hills.
For the past three years, we have been under siege from a callous developer and a negligent city agency. Despite the large scale of the Bicon development, its proximity to a residential neighborhood and a historic parkway, and contrary to numerous zoning laws and regulations, both the developer and ISD have steadfastly ignored the proper process for this development.
Our requests to ISD—spanning over two years—for action on the many zoning violations were met with silence, incomplete responses, or answers that defied our reading of the law and sometimes even common sense. To this date, not a single conditional use or variance hearing has been held regarding the project.
Now, the zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) has verified what we asserted (and ISD denied) from the beginning, that: the project should have had Parks Department review; it should have applied for a conditional use permit given its proximity to the Arborway; the lighted sign on the Arborway was put up without the proper permitting; and medical and training uses for that site are either conditional or forbidden. In effect, what the ZBA determined was that the entire project should have been subject to a full community-based process before any construction began. Whoops!
And this isn’t the only current local example of ISD’s fickle relationship with the zoning code. The residents of St. John Street recently appealed to the ZBA (and won) when ISD improperly re-designated a two-family house as a three-family dwelling with no variance process whatsoever [JP Gazette, Sept. 26].
Why the residents of Yale Terrace and St. John Street need to have a better understanding of the zoning laws than the very agency charged with enforcing them, and why ISD continued to cling to absurd interpretations of the zoning code despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is something that should concern every resident of Boston, and, indeed, Mayor Thomas Menino himself.
The zoning code exists to provide a transparent and predictable set of standards that all people must follow. We cannot have a city agency making arbitrary decisions with no accountability to the community. Holding ISD accountable to the zoning code should not have to be a part-time job for the abutters of a construction project.
Now that the ZBA has ruled in our favor on the Bicon matter, ISD must revoke all improperly issued building and occupancy permits until the appropriate process has been completely carried out. ISD’s very credibility is at stake, and this neighborhood is owed at least that much. We call on the mayor not only to direct ISD to go back to the drawing board on this renegade project, but also to initiate a prompt and thorough review of ISD management to restore the trustworthiness and accountability of this important city agency.
For the residents of Yale Terrace