50 Stedman St. meeting proves contentious

November 9, 2018
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Business displacement and abutter notification were two concerns raised during a contentious Boston Planning and Development (BPDA) meeting on the 50 Stedman St. project, which also had a contingent of attendees expressing support for the proposal.

About 25 people were at Doyle’s Cafe for the Oct. 29 meeting, which had attendees at times shouting at each other, while others were visibly angry or on the verge of tears.

Developers Bryan Austin and Sean Morrissey through Helms Investments LLC, recently filed plans with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for a residential development at 50 Stedman St. in the Stonybrook neighborhood. The project will involve demolishing an existing a one-story commercial structure at the property and transforming the site into a three-story, 24,000-square-foot building with 21 residential units and a parking garage below for 21 spaces.

The project will have 6 one-bedroom units and 15 two-bedroom units. Four units, or 19 percent of the total units, will be marked as affordable, meeting Plan: JP/Rox guidelines. The one-bedrooms will be about 730 square feet, while the two-bedrooms will be about 1,100 square feet.

The issue of whether or not Mary Rigo of Brookley Road received notification about project took up a lot of time at the meeting. Her son, Andy Rigo, spoke on her behalf and was visibly angry about the situation. He said they are direct abutters of the project, owning land that is next to the site and that they received no formal notification. He said his mother might build on that lot.

“We are just coming up to speed now,” said Andy Rigo. “It is a lot to take in in a short amount of time.”

He said it’s a massive project considering the area and that the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) voted 10-1 that progress on the project should stop until him and his mother are caught up to speed.

“My mom is 85 years old and works full time,” Andy Rigo said later. “It is overwhelming for her. She calls every member of her family crying.”

Some attendees disputed the SNA vote saying they weren’t aware it was taking place, while others said the development team made a concerted effort to notify the neighborhood about the project.

Jay Walsh, a member of the development team and a former Walsh administration official, said that he rang the doorbell at Mary Rigo’s home several times and that notifications were hand delivered.

Andy Rigo countered, did you mail the notification?

Walsh said that they want to work with the two of them.

Eva Kaniasty, co-chair of Stonybrook Neighborhood Association, said she was with Walsh one of the times he rung Mary Rigo’s doorbell. She also said that there are 17 abutters who support the project after extensive negotiations over several iterations of the proposal. She said that the proposal doesn’t cause displacement—several attendees pointed out it will displace a business—and she corrected herself to say that it doesn’t cause renter displacement. Kaniasty said that the proposal meets Plan: JP/Rox affordability guidelines; has underground parking, which alleviates people’s concern over street parking in the area; and replaces “an industrial wasteland” with residential apartments. She said she has “suffered a lot of stress over the project.”

At the one-story commercial building is currently the Wentworth Service Station, owned by Bill Miceli. The business would need to be relocated if the project proceeds. Alison Pultinas, a Mission Hill resident, said she has been a customer of Bill’s for 40 years, stretching back to when the business was located on Mission Hill.

“He is the most wonderful mechanic in the city of Boston,” she said.

She questioned what the development team meant when they said they would help him, saying that Miceli has been looking for a new location for 18 months and has “no clue where he is going to go.”

Walsh said that the “best thing” is for the development team to get clarity about the future of the project. Walsh said they will make “every effort to assist Billy,” noting that members of the team are in the real estate business.

“He’s not going to be left high and dry,” said Walsh.

Fred Vetterlein said that the community has worked on the proposal for three years and that he has reached the point where he wants to support it. But, he said, he also wants to make sure Mary Rigo’s investment does not suffer. He said that the project is splitting abutters and the SNA.

“We want stuff to happen here. We want to see this become a thriving residential area. I support the project,” said Vetterlein.

For more information, visit bit.ly/2C5FIzP. The comment period for the project ended Nov. 7.

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