Letter: Developer’s work does not add to JP character

“Life goes on. Things get built,” developer Pat McKenna is quoted as saying in John Ruch’s April 13 article “Housing developer stirs more debate.”

I have lived in the Glenvale Park neighborhood since 1988, a few doors down from Mr. McKenna’s proposed demolition of 207 Chestnut Ave., a farmhouse that dates back to the 1800s. In the 1970s, my neighbors successfully fought the planned routing of I-95 along the Southwest Corridor. If they had abided by Mr. McKenna’s philosophy, there would be an interstate highway one block from my house, on the parkland where the annual Wake Up the Earth Festival will be celebrated in May.

“Life goes on.” We would like our lives to go on. Mr. McKenna has a track record of building for maximum density and minimum greenspace. As a downhill neighbor of 207 Chestnut, I am concerned for the impact his project will have on my sturdy, old (154 years) house. Along with 207’s old farmhouse, most of the mature trees on the 15,000-square-foot lot will come down. When the trees come down, so will the runoff, adding to the frequent flooding of basements in the neighborhood.

I don’t put all the responsibility on Mr. McKenna. The City should have an environmental impact process for developments that significantly change the landscape and character of a neighborhood. With respect to the City, the Landmarks Commission did tell Mr. McKenna to work with his neighbors to come up with a plan that responds to our concerns. We have met with his representatives, and McKenna has dismissed our major requests. While the commission does an outstanding job of working to protect the historical integrity of our neighborhoods, it has been given little enforcement power.

When a developer buys an old home, his plans may not be influenced by a concern for neighborly relations, as he goes home someplace else. In addition to some developers and the City, some real estate agents also contribute to the loss of yards, old homes and sense of neighborhood. The property at 207 Chestnut was on the market for less than a week. At least two neighborhood families expressed interest to the real estate agent, but like so many other sales of lots with development potential, accelerated sales and agents’ interests seem to favor developers.

The loss of the old house and the trees will change the character of our street, removing a dignified 1800s house, leaving a bald spot, increasing run-off and summer heat, and adding to the stiff competition for on-street parking.

I have enjoyed JP’s unique and historic character, friendly and diverse neighbors, and canopy of green for over 30 years. The type of development that Mr. McKenna is committed to erodes what we value about our neighborhood. At what point do we take a stand and act to sustain JP for the future?

Elaine Reily

Jamaica Plain

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