By Lauren Bennett
The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) met for its monthly meeting on January 14, and though they still have not come to a complete agreement, the 50 Stedman St. project was a major talking point for the group.
As previously reported by the Gazette, the project at 50 Stedman Street includes the demolition of the existing one-story commercial structure at the address and the construction of a three-story, 24,000 square foot building that will have 21 residential units.
In November, the SNA took a vote on whether or not they were going to not oppose the proposal as it currently existed.
“We had a lot of participation from the neighborhood, and ultimately that vote did not pass,” said Danielle Cerny, a member of the steering committee. “We communicated that to the BPDA but we as a steering committee really want to see this project move forward. There’s been a lot of really hard work done by the neighborhood to make this proposal incredibly strong compared to what it was when it started. And I know that there are a lot of different opinions and the vote was a no last time that we took it,” Cerny added.
Cerny said that the BPDA wanted to move forward with the proposal this month, but SNA negotiated with them to get one more month to “try to come to a consensus as a neighborhood.”
At the meeting in November, the big topic of discussion was surrounding the setbacks on direct abutter Mary Rigo’s property on Brookley St., as well as concerns for Bill Miceli’s Wentworth Service Station, which currently sits at the property and will have to be relocated if the project moves forward. Miceli was invited to the January SNA meeting, but did not show up— most likely because he was working— an SNA member said. However, they will try again in February to give him “an opportunity to express in his own voice what he feels about the proposal,” Cerny said.
When the group last spoke. Cerny said there were concerns about whether the Rigos (Mary and her son Andy) had been given enough time to engage in negotiations. she also said that at the time the vote went live, there was no updated proposal. “And our understanding is that, very understandably, gave folks pause and people wanted more time to see progress on that,” Cerny said.
Since that meeting in November, the developers have come back with an updated plan that moves the setbacks for the Rigos’ property from eight feet to ten feet. “That is still not the twelve feet that they’ve been looking for, but it is progress and it brings those setbacks down in compliance of what they should be for a multi-family unit,” Cerny said.
SNA member Andy Rigo spoke about his opinions on the progress, as well as what his mother thinks about the whole thing.
“From the setback standpoint, I feel like it’s a bit refreshing that we’ve gotten some progress from the developer and the most refreshing part about it is that all of a sudden everyone seems to understand what the requirements are,” Rigo said. He said he was pleased that everyone understands that a ten foot setback is compliant, and that they should have started with that.
However, Rigo does believe that the setbacks on the other side of the building are a “bit concerning still,” and said that his mother thinks it’s “still not fair.”
“I’m trying to work with her and I can’t legitimately come up with a good reason why one neighbor should get more of a setback than another,” Rigo said. “My mother is a little bit less upset about this granted that they’re actually following the rules when it comes to this particular setback but that is her feeling: why should I be treated differently than anyone else?”
He thinks her feelings are derived from the fact that she wasn’t involved from the very beginning, but now that is trying to get resolved. “I think we still have a little bit of bargaining power before this gets stamped by the BPDA,” he said.
Rigo aded that his mother is also concerned about the increase of traffic and the safety of children in the neighborhood. He said that there is heavy traffic on Brookley Street now, but when 50 Stedman becomes residential, it will only get worse.
“It is tough for her to handle all of this and she gets very upset about it,” Rigo said. “We would still like to see the 12 and we would definitely like to see something more reasonable on the other side.”
Cerny said that they’ve been talking to the BPDA “quite a bit about this property and trying to understand their rationale.” She said that the SNA has been told that the BPDA takes into consideration the current use of lots, and that they consider the 50 Stedman lot empty compared to other lots that have residents.
“The BPDA considers this proposal to be fair,” Cerny said. She added that they are weighing this against the other abutters who are in favor of going forward with the project, and that someone from the BPDA could attend the February SNA meeting to answer any leftover questions so the group can come to an agreement and move forward with the proposal.
Cerny said that it was a “valid concern in November that Mary had been late to the negotiations,” and that “everyone agrees that fairness is important.”
Though Bill Miceli was not at the meeting, the group also discussed mitigation for him, which led to a discussion of community benefits vs. helping out one individual. Jennifer Uhrhane said that any community benefits that would come out of this project should be different than helping Bill, since he is one person.
Others in the group disagreed, saying that keeping a good mechanic in the community is a benefit to the whole community, but it is not the same as a more traditional community benefit. They hope there is room to negotiate for both helping Miceli and having other community benefits. Uhrhane said that she would like to see sidewalks in the area surrounding 50 Stedman as an example of a community benefit.
Uhrhane said that relocation assistance can take different forms: financial versus providing a new place for his business. Several members said they would like to put in writing how much notice he will have to be given to wrelocate and get set up.
“I think the neighborhood can do a lot better,” Jonathan McCurdy said. He said that there needs to continue to be pushback, and he feels like the process was rushed. “The communication hasn’t been clear,” he said, and said these things should be pushed for because it sets precedent.
The SNA ultimately boiled their discussion down to looking into the possibility of adjusting the setback on both sides to 11 feet, wanting to get in writing certain commitments to Miceli including money for relocation and length of notice to move, as well as pushing for more community benefits. The SNA hopes to come to a consensus and vote on this proposal at its Feb. 11 meeting.