BRA asks 64 Allandale developer to consider buffer zone

October 23, 2015
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The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is asking the developer for the 64 Allandale St. project to consider a conservation restriction that would create a buffer zone between the Allandale Woods and the development, according to BRA spokesperson Nick Martin.

A conservation restriction was one of several recommended revisions the Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD) suggested in a letter to the BRA about the project.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the developer said the development team will continue discussions with the BRA and BPRD and reiterated the environmentally-friendly aspects of the project.

The property at 64 Allandale St. is on the border of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. It is part of the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, as a matter of zoning. Jacqueline Nunez, a Dorchester-based developer, filed a project notification form (PNF) during the summer with the BRA for a $20 million, 20-unit development at 64 Allandale St.

The proposal calls for building 16 new townhouses and creating four units at an existing house already on the property. The townhouses would be built in five different clusters, snaking down towards Allandale Woods and replacing a verdant landscape. The townhouses would range from three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half stories. The project would have 47 parking spaces, including seven spots for guests. The project would need several variances, such as for building height, floor area ratio and setbacks.

“The project aims to be a national model for sustainability by achieving multiple ambitious goals: net-zero energy usage, LEED Platinum design and fortified home construction ensuring maximum climate change resilience,” states the PNF.

The project would abut Allandale Woods, which is an “urban wild” of about 100 acres of City- and private-owned land in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. The woods is roughly formed by Allandale and Centre streets, the VFW Parkway and the Hackensack Road.

Martin said in an email that the BRA is continuing to work with the developer to address concerns and feedback by the community and BPRD.

“It’s clear that the potential impact on Allandale Woods is the most pressing concern, and we have asked the developer to consider a conservation restriction that would create a buffer zone between the proposed development and the protected urban wild,” he said. “We expect this process to take a little time, and we will keep the community abreast of any updates.”

A conservation restriction is one of several recommended revisions to the project that the BPRD had in an Oct. 13 letter it sent to the BRA. Other recommendations were to cluster the units and have the developer demonstrate that the project will not change the water regime of the watershed in the area.

“A fundamental concept of sustainability is that development will not negatively impact the existing community or its resources. A sustainable site design would demonstrate a thorough understanding of the adjacent natural features, and would augment and enhance these resources,” the letter states.

While the letter states BPRD has “great respect” for the project goals, it raises several concerns, including that the townhouses’ size could negatively impact Allandale Woods. The letter asks that the developer create renderings that show a view of the proposed project from the historic spring house behind the property.

The letter also questions whether the proposed development falls within 100 feet of wetland area, which would require it to go through additional environmental review hurdles. The letter states that BPRD staff has found wetland plants growing beyond the wetland area mapped out by the developer, including purple-stemmed American asters, which only occur in wetlands.

When asked for comment, Susan Elsbree, spokesperson for the developer, responded in an email, “We have been asked to continue discussions with the BRA and BPRD to meet our shared goals of protecting and enhancing Allandale Woods, and creating a national model for sustainable development and inspired design.  As we have done throughout the public process, we are carefully considering how we can improve the ecology, hydrology and wildlife in Allandale Woods.”

She said that no development currently proposed in the city exceeds the environmental and ecological sensitivity of the 64 Allandale project.

“With regards to potential wetlands areas, we have had two wetlands surveys of the site prepared,” said Elsbree. “Both confirm that the closest element of any new building is more than 180 feet from the nearest wetland.  Given that the statutory buffer zone depth is 100 feet, we are confident that our new construction will not impact this wetlands area.  In addition, the project includes bioswales – new, created wetlands – within the site to further support healthy hydrology at the Allandale Woods boundary.”

The BRA comment period for the project ended Oct. 13. A community meeting for the project was held Oct. 6 with the majority of attendees speaking out against the proposal. Repeated objections were made over the density of the project, traffic concerns despite the development team’s assurance that the impact would be minimal, and the affect it would have on Allandale Woods, such as townhouses towering over a historic springhouse and the development possibly damaging wetlands.

People also questioned what the cost of the units would be, while pointing out that the project is expected to cost $20 million, which would mean the average unit would have to cost more than a million for the developer to make a profit. The developer has not revealed unit pricing or the affordability component of the project yet.

Several attendees spoke in favor of the project, some of who said they are friends with Nunez or live in homes built by her. They commented on how well she works with the community and the detail and benefits of the 64 Allandale St. project, including it being energy efficient, bringing much needed housing to the city and being aesthetically pleasing.

 

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