City still mum on dental building

October 23, 2009
By

John Ruch

FOREST HILLS—Despite promising a new review of the controversial Bicon dental building within “weeks, not months,” the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) six months later still has not reported back with any results, according to neighbors, who sent a new complaint letter to ISD and the Mayor’s Office last week following Gazette inquiries.

ISD Commissioner William Good responded to the letter Tuesday in an e-mail that said some type of action has been taken—but that he forgot to tell anyone.

Good apologized and promised to send out a letter with full information this week. He made it clear he knows that neighbors are interested in ISD’s decisions about the controversial site, which were once the subject of a Boston City Council hearing.

“We respectfully request that you let us know at your earliest convenience whether you intend to take any of the actions promised…or whether we will have to seek another way of redressing this situation,” Jerry O’Connor wrote in the letter on behalf of Yale Terrace neighbors. O’Connor told the Gazette that a lawsuit could be a last resort.

“In fact the items you have listed have been or are being addressed/responded to…,” Good wrote in his e-mail, which ISD provided to the Gazette. “Again, my apologies. The problem was not with ISD or [the Mayor’s Office of] Neighborhood Services but with me in failing to respond as I had agreed to at the meeting.”

Bicon did not respond to Gazette questions for this article. City Councilor John Tobin, who has long been involved in the controversy, told the Gazette he also has not heard anything from ISD about Bicon in the past half-year.

Bicon, at 501 Arborway (officially known as 123 Morton St. in city records), first drew attention years ago for a failed plan to open a restaurant on its third floor with no community notice.

That led to ongoing controversy about ISD’s often mysterious permitting of major construction and various new uses at Bicon’s building. ISD has variously cited Bicon for violations; said there are no violations at all; and said violations were fixed with no explanation of how. At one point, ISD denied the existence of training courses being held at Bicon, even though they were advertised on the company’s web site.

ISD officials have also acknowledged various “oversights” and have sometime overlooked obvious facts related to the permitting process, such as whether the Bicon building is within 100 feet of the Arborway.

The mystery deepened earlier this year when the Gazette revealed that Dennis DiMarzio, chair of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and a friend of Mayor Thomas Menino, was playing a behind-the-scenes role, attempting to broker some type of agreement between Bicon and the neighbors. DiMarzio’s role and interest in the situation was never explained.

The last public meeting about Bicon, held on April 27, featured more bewildering claims from ISD officials. That meeting was sparked in part by another item ISD forgot to tell residents and Tobin: that a use of the building formerly cited as illegal was now considered legal.

However, that meeting ended with some agreement and direct promises from Good.

Residents had expressed concerns that a clinical laboratory inside the Bicon building, and a large Bicon sign out front, are possibly “conditional uses” under the zoning code—meaning they would require zoning variances and a community meeting.

Good said that both of those issues were “legitimate items” that ISD would review again within “weeks, not months.” He said he would come to another community meeting to explain the results of those reviews.

Good also said that he agreed with residents’ concerns about a Dumpster on the Bicon property, which appeared to involve its location and cleanliness. “The Dumpster will be done…We’ll help you take care of the Dumpster,” Good said.

But there has not been another community meeting, and O’Connor and Tobin both said they have heard nothing about the promised reviews. The Dumpster also remains in its original position, O’Connor said.

The only new development was another, private meeting on July 8 that included Good, O’Connor and another resident, O’Connor said. That meeting consisted of a rehash of the neighbors’ concerns and did not gain new information from ISD, O’Connor told the Gazette.

O’Connor’s letter adds that Bicon recently removed some vegetation on its property line intended as an official zoning code “buffer” from the residential area. “Things are getting worse, not better,” O’Connor said.

In his e-mail this week, Good wrote that shortly after the July meeting, he spoke with one of the residents about some technical details.

“After that I began to prepare a draft of a letter to you which, I am embarrassed to say, I now realize I never completed and sent,” Good wrote.