JPNC chair seeks Forest Hills development committee

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Chair Kevin Moloney and member Bernard Doherty want to form a council committee to give Forest Hills-area residents a forum to discuss the numerous developments in that area.

But some residents say that Doherty and Moloney are exceeding their authority and trying to reopen debate on the Casey Arborway project, which both men prominently opposed. Doherty denied those criticisms in a Gazette interview.

Developments underway would create as many as 540 new housing units in a quarter-mile circle around the Forest Hills MBTA station. The 2008 Forest Hills Improvement Initiative (FHII), created with Boston Redevelopment Authority support, allow for several hundred more on yet-undeveloped parcels.

“I don’t think people have a good understanding of what’s going on,” Doherty said. “These [current] developments were taken as pieces of a puzzle, not as a whole. I want people to be informed and let the people decide what they want.”

Doherty was a key founder of the now-defunct Greater Forest Hills Task Force, whose efforts to get an overview of local development led to the FHII.

People interested in joining the proposed committee, comprised of JPNC members and other community members, are planning to meet and decide what their focus should be before reporting back to the whole JPNC at its next meeting on April 29, Doherty told the Gazette.

“I make no bones about it. I have very deep concerns,” he said.

However, members of the community are expressing concern that Doherty and Moloney may be stepping over boundaries.

“A number of people thought the proposal was too loosely worded, others were concerned about potentially revisiting matters that are largely settled like the Casey Overpass, and still others wanted to make sure that any such specialized committee was set up as a separate ad hoc committee of the Council,” JPNC member and Zoning Committee chair David Baron told the Gazette. “So the initiative was tabled so the proponents could work on defining and refining the mission of their proposed committee.”

“Kevin Moloney, Bernie Doherty and others are attempting to wrap their own often irrational campaign to obstruct [the state’s] transformative plans for the Casey Arborway in the mantle of the JPNC’s limited authority while attempting to expand that authority … essentially proclaiming themselves lords and masters of practically every instance of progress proposed in Jamaica Plain regardless of its status or history of community engagement,” JP resident Clayton Harper wrote to the Gazette.

Doherty flatly denied the claim, telling the Gazette, “This is not a power grab.”

“This is a tsunami of construction coming at Forest Hills,” he said. “We need to have some discussion about the quality of life for the people who live there.”

The committee would decide what area to cover and how to best engage the community and elected officials, Doherty said, while not taking any stances on any particular project.

“We’re not looking to make this a battle royal. But we either address [these issues] now or we address it when there’s a major blow-up,” he said, mentioning the example of the lack of parking in the “Innovation District” in South Boston.

“I didn’t come to this community to have it completely change,” Doherty said. “Pay attention now, folks. Once this all starts, it’ll be hard to stop.”

Gazette requests for comment from Moloney were not returned by press time.

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