Housing developer stirs more debate

April 13, 2012
By

PONDSIDE—A housing developer who has sparked controversy for demolishing old homes and felling trees to build dense condo projects is stirring debate once again on Zamora Street.

“Some residents went crazy,” said Brighton-based Pat McKenna about his 20 Zamora St. project. “The City approved it, but then I’m a bad guy for developing it.”

Tom Fealy of nearby Parkton Road is among the neighbors expressing concern about how McKenna recently demolished a single-family home and lopped down a tall evergreen tree, all to make way for three two-unit townhouses.

“We need developers to redevelop many parts of the city, but this area isn’t one of them,” Fealy said in an email to the Gazette. “Plain and simple, this is all about money. The City process has failed this community.”

McKenna is, as usual, building “as of right”—meaning within the limits of the zoning code. That means no public review of his plan is required, though he said he has spoken to some neighbors about it.

McKenna has built several successful condo projects around JP. But he has run into high-profile controversies as well. His 2007 redevelopment of 22-24 Custer St. added momentum to an effort to restrict tree-cutting in Boston.

And he is still embroiled in an over year-long controversy on Chestnut Avenue, where his plan to demolish an old house, fell trees and drill a foundation sparked the creation of a new neighborhood association. The house remains standing for now, and one resident has a lawyer involved, according to Chestnut Avenue resident Marilyn Stern.

“The basic concern is the density and scale of the project are not comfortable for people in the neighborhood,” said Stern. Residents have called for the reuse of the existing building.

“I always like to meet neighbors—give a little, get a little,” said McKenna. But residents, including Stern, have said that McKenna typically meets only under pressure and offers little compromise.

Fealy said that residents around Zamora Street are talking about forming a new neighborhood association and seeking a way to require community notice about as-of-right development.

The Zamora Street project will include 10 to 12 surface parking spaces—a number boosted at neighbors’ request, McKenna said. The large tree had to go for fire truck access, he added, saying that other trees are being left on the site.

The project will require no drilling or blasting, McKenna said, and could be finished this fall. McKenna paid the former owners $1.1 million for a total of four parcels to do the project, according to Suffolk County property records.

A lot of community concern about his projects is simply a dislike of change, McKenna said.

“Life goes on. Things get built,” he said.

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