BRA board’s vote on S. Huntington Ave. guidelines delayed

December 18, 2015
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By Emily Resnevic and Peter Shanley

Gazette Staff

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board’s vote on the S. Huntington Ave. guidelines has been delayed so the agency can further discuss them with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, according to spokesperson Nick Martin.

The BRA board was slated to vote on the guidelines during its Dec. 10 meeting.

“I don’t imagine there will be significant changes to the guidelines,” said Martin in an email. “We’re working with the Parks Department to make sure they’re comfortable with the plan.”

He said that he can’t guarantee that the guidelines will be voted on during the BRA board next meeting in January, but that, “we’re certainly interested in finalizing this process very soon.”

The BRA had an “open house” to share the guidelines with the community at the Hennigan School on Nov. 19. The feedback received was mostly in support of the guidelines, according to Marie Mercurio of the BRA. The Gazette spoke with Mercurio on Dec. 4, when the guidelines were still expected to be voted on during the BRA board meeting.

The guidelines are supposed to address the types of developments preferred by the community for the S. Huntington Ave. corridor. The guidelines will be used by the BRA on pending and future projects.

One recommendation that the guidelines include is to expand ground floor use. That will allow for developing buildings with a larger variety of uses—such as dry cleaning, restaurants, coffee shops—in an attempt to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

The guidelines will be codified if the BRA board and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approve them. The guidelines are currently seen as recommendations, but they will become legal zoning requirements if they are approved.

Mercurio said the BRA had a good turnout at the open house because many people were interested in the process due to projects such as the recently-completed 161 S. Huntington Ave. development and the recently-proposed Goddard House development.

The BRA held a four-month process of coming up with the requirements, which came at residents’ requests due to controversial developments at 161 and 105A S. Huntington Ave.

She said she didn’t get any pushback at the open house about the guidelines, except for comments on the issue of affordable housing, which she says cannot be written into zoning.

“I think a lot of people in JP want [affordable housing] baked into the zoning, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” she said.

Kevin Moloney of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) said the guidelines are a “more current view” of that area and “better off meeting the needs of today.” But, he said, an “issue of concern” continues to be affordability, which the guidelines do not address.

If the BRA and the ZBA approve the guidelines, the mayor will have 10 days to sign them into effect. If he signs the guidelines, they will become an amendment to local zoning in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain.

For more information about the guidelines, visit bit.ly/1P9Vglg.

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