Still seeking a convent land meeting

As the president of the Jamaica Hills Association (JHA) and on behalf of the neighbors our organization serves, I would like to respond to the recent articles regarding the sale of the Daughters of St. Paul’s land in the Moss Hill section of Jamaica Plain.

The JHA first learned about the private bids from an article published in the Jamaica Plain Gazette on March 4, 2011. First, we are delighted to hear that the Daughters of St. Paul plan to remain in the neighborhood. Nonetheless, although we do understand that they do not have definite plans for the property at this time, speculation about the possible options and their impact is of concern to many residents in the community. In response to the Gazette’s article, the JHA sent a letter on March 6 to Sister Nancy Usselmann to ask for a meeting with the Daughters of St. Paul and our Zoning Committee. We proposed this meeting to introduce ourselves to the Daughters of St. Paul and describe the role the JHA serves in our community. Unfortunately, we have not received a response to our inquiry or concerns.

The JHA is a longstanding and active civic organization that serves many needs in our neighborhood. Our goal is to inform residents, facilitate social interaction, and encourage community service. We enjoy fostering close relationships with the institutions in our community.

According to the Gazette, the land offered for sale is 15 acres zoned as a Conservation Protection Subdistrict. Article 55 of the zoning code states that “Conservation Protection Subdistricts are established to promote the most desirable use of land and siting of development in areas with special natural or scenic features in accordance with a well considered plan, and to protect and enhance the natural and scenic resources of Jamaica Plain.” Yet one of the possible development strategies reported is to appeal for variance to the existing code and build 120 units, nearly three times the allowed density. In addition, the site abuts Westchester Road, a dead-end street; currently, the only access to the site is St. Paul Avenue, off Pond Street. Clearly, these conditions raise concerns about their potential impact on an entire neighborhood.

We are aware of the possible tendency to categorize neighbors who are concerned about development in their community as close-minded, unreasonable or exclusive. However, the JHA community has a long track record of working with institutions to build consensus and ensure that the plans of private property owners are balanced with the welfare of the community at large. Above all, we work to ensure that the development process does not pit neighbors against neighbors—and we consider the Daughters of St. Paul a neighbor with whom we want to maintain a good rapport.

Our letter to the Gazette is a second invitation to the Daughters of St. Paul to meet with our Zoning Committee and recognize the positive role they can serve in a process that affects the very community in which they live and work.

Polly Selkoe
President, Jamaica Hills Association
Jamaica Plain

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