Controversial house projects to get more local input

May 9, 2014
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Proponents of two controversial construction projects announced at the April 16 Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee meeting that they would postpone their hearings with the City Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to consult further with the community.

The project at 266 Lamartine St., proposed to raze an existing building and erect a new, three-story dwelling and two-story carriage house for a total of four units, agreed to delay its hearing after about a dozen neighbors and abutters said that the developer had not spent enough time consulting with the community.

The developer first announced the project about a month before the Zoning Committee hearing and held weekly meetings with the community in that time.

The project, as presented, would require variances for floor-to-area ratio (FAR) and front, side and rear distance requirements. Abutters also complained of a lack of green space, as a significant part of the property would be converted to create four off-street parking spaces.

The developers for the proposed for 221 Chestnut Ave. also agreed to delay his meeting with the ZBA to further consult with his neighbors.

The developer is proposing to expand the existing house, already the largest in the immediate area, and add a three-car garage.

While there is some confusion as to the legal occupancy of the house—some city documents list it as a one-family, others as a three-family—the developer is seeking to formalize it as a three-family. He is also looking to expand the living space into the basement, add a three-story addition and create a garage to allow for two parking spaces per unit.

About 10 neighbors were present at the meeting to protest the project, calling it too large for the neighborhood.

“It reads like a hospital in a residential neighborhood,” neighbor Peter Fence said at the meeting.

Neighbors also mentioned that an employee of the developer asked for signatures in support of the project the previous week, but that that employee misrepresented the extent of the project, describing it as a “small addition and a garage,” with no mention of the project’s large scope.

Zoning Committee Chair David Baron said the project “is clearly a piece of garbage right now” and advised the developer to further consult with the community before returning to the Committee.

  • Eric Herot

    A three unit building is “too big for the community?” Are they kidding? There is a three unit building directly across the street! This is JP! Half of the land area in the area is zoned for three family housing.

    Also when are people going to start to understand that if we make developers build only single family houses within walking distance to the train, it is going to make all of the housing in Jamaica Plain insanely expensive???

    You can’t have low density buildings AND ample off street parking AND affordable housing all at the same time. They are orthogonal goals.

    We need to stop using size, frontage, and “Floor Area Ratio” as the primary determiner of whether something “fits” in the neighborhood, and worry about things that actually matter such as, “is the developer going to make it look nice.” Making something small does not automatically make it pretty, and vice versa.

    Case in point: The former Jamaica Plain High School on Elm Street. It’s a beautiful building with sky high property values right across the street from it, and it violates every one of these supposed “principles.” In the JP of today, such a building could never be built. It’s a good thing we already have it.