Abutters raise opposition to City Realty project

April 27, 2018
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A group of abutters are opposing a proposed City Realty project in the Parkside neighborhood, citing in a letter to the developer concerns such as parking and density, and saying that the project does not benefit the community, only City Realty’s financials.

A City Realty spokesperson said that City Realty is not interested in responding to “unnecessary personal attacks on our character” and said that there are people in the community who support the project.

The project, which is through a City Realty entity named 18 Robes, LLC, would divide a parcel at 18 Robeson St., creating a new address, 21 Rocky Nook St. The project would involve demolishing a depilated structure on the property and replacing it with a single-family home that would require zoning relief. That structure has been described as a two-story carriage house by City Realty, while the abutters’ letter says it is an “old garage or barn.”

Abutters to the property—Clare Conley, Marilyn Arsem, Freida Yoder, Ethan Cole, Glenda Yoder, and Olga Sealy—signed an April 14 letter to the developer saying that they oppose the project and will continue to do so until it is in compliance with the zoning code and “in accordance with the historically established character and density of the neighborhood.”

“The members of this community have substantial, long-term and ongoing investments—social/cultural, financial and otherwise—in this neighborhood,” the letter states. “As abutters to the 18 Robeson Street property, we have a significant stake in any proposed construction at the property, and aggressively oppose the development you have proposed in violation of the Boston Zoning Code.”

The letter went on to say, “It would have been amusing to listen to your attorney state at the January 25 community meeting that the proposed development would be a benefit to the community, because your project would replace a dilapidated and derelict shed with a nice, new 2,5000 SF single family house (estimated sale value $1.5 million), if those comments were not so insulting to the intelligence of every person at the meeting.

“18 Robes, LLC has allowed a derelict and dangerously unstable structure to stand (if “stand” is even an appropriate term for a structure that has so extensively disintegrated) on the property for the entire time you have owned it, and appear to have take no steps to deal with the raccoons, skunks and various rodents who use the structure as their next. You have also placed and/or allowed trash to accumulate on the property for the past several years. So, to say that 18 Robes LLC is ‘helping’ the community, and doing the community a service, is simply laughable. As at least one attendee of the January 25 community meeting stated the point well: It is clear to us that the only benefit of your proposal will be the money that goes into your pockets. Neither your tenants, the abutters, the community, nor the City will benefit from this proposal.”

Arsem also sent a comment to the Gazette that “City Realty is a blight on this neighborhood, and is destroying the quality of life and the historic character of Jamaica Plain, as it steadily seeks to snap up available lots and construct as much as possible on those lots – even if it means obliterating green space, blasting out ledge, leveling the sloping natural landscape, cutting down trees, and filling open space with new structures – to the fullest extent allowed by law, and, frequently, beyond what is permitted by law.”

Asked to respond, City Realty spokesperson Clifford Kensington said in an email, “We are not interested in responding to unnecessary personal attacks on our character.”

He went on to say, “There are many in the neighborhood who are supportive of our efforts on this property. However, most are uncomfortable attending meetings due to the hostile and vitriolic behavior of a few vocal abutters, as clearly evidenced by letters like this.”

Kensington attached two letters from George Arno of Glen Road. One letter was to the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals supporting the City Realty project, citing the value it will add both to his property and to the local community. The other letter said he did not attend a recent abutters meeting on the project because “I honestly don’t feel comfortable expressing support for the project around the abutters group. They’ve been hostile to dissenting opinions in the past and I don’t want to start any conflicts with my neighbors. While I’d love to come speak in support, I have to respectfully stay away from these meetings.”

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