South St. office-to-houses project shot down

August 1, 2014
By

In a decision that a developer’s representative called “unbelievable,” the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee on July 16 voted to oppose the redevelopment of 71 South St. into four new apartments.

The owner and developer, Peter Fenn, spent almost two years in negotiation with the neighbors before reaching a compromise of four units, two parking spaces and a large yard.

Despite the lengthy process, and over an hour of discussion at the meeting at the Farnsworth House, the Zoning Committee voted against the project 5-4.

Fenn said this week he is still considering whether to continue working on the design or move straight to a City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.

As originally proposed, the project would have demolished the existing two-family house—currently used as offices—and replaced it with five units and five parking spaces. The 4,684-square-foot lot at South and Atwood Square would need to be at least 5,000 square feet for a three-family house to be built as of right.

The neighbors, as represented by spokesperson Anna Brickman, fought for the smaller project that Fenn agreed to. She brought a letter of support, signed by about a dozen abutters.

But three neighbors across South Street, including Croan McCormick, said they were not involved with the regular neighborhood meetings that produced the compromise plan and letter of support.

McCormick also said that, “There could be better uses for that property.”

Committee Chair Dave Baron voted against the project in Aug. 2012 but voted in support of it this time, noting the length of the process and the compromises made on both sides. But a majority of committee members opposed it.

“We’re evaluating our options,” Fenn later told the Gazette. “We had what we thought was an appropriate arrangement with the neighbors who matter. Those three people who showed up [to object at the meeting] are inconsequential.”

CORRECTION: This article has been edited to correct the parcel’s zoning.

  • Eric Herot

    Would love to see what some of the arguments against this were. Also maybe some commentary on how forcing developers to build smaller developments on the same plot of land tends to raise housing prices overall.

  • wolfndeer

    There is a drought of housing and those who own contribute to it purposefully because they love seeing the value of their homes rise — just sucks to be anybody them.