ZBA Denies Boutique Hotel on Perkins Street; Approves Addition on Rockview Street

Two widely discussed proposals in the JP community were heard at The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) hearing on August 13, 32 and 32R Perkins St, which was denied by the ZBA, and 32 Rockview St., which was approved.

32 and 32R Perkins Street

The applicants for the proposal on Perkins St. were told before they presented that there were only five members of the ZBA to hear their case that day, in which case they would need all five members to approve the proposal for it to pass. Attorney Chris Tracy of O’Neill and Associates and the rest of the team decided to go ahead with their presentation.

The proposal for the lot is to renovate the existing three family home and rebuild the carriage house to create a “boutique hotel.”

The existing building would have 11 rooms, and the rebuilt carriage house would have six rooms, for a total of 17 rooms. The zoning violations are: two or more dwellings on the same lot, use regulations, lot area insufficient, Floor Area Ration excessive, rear yard insufficent, and usable open space insufficient.

“We’ve been at this process for an awful long time,” Tracy said. “And my client has been monitoring how short-term rentals and the rules and regulations around such are changing in the city. We want to be as transparent as possible, as compliant with city rules as possible.”

Tracy said they have been working with the city about how to codify this operation. He said that the city told them they did not like the term “rooming house,” and suggested that they call it a “boutique hotel” instead. The 11 room structure has been operating as such for a little under a year, he said.

“The plan has always been to register the rooms with the city’s short-term rental registry,” Tracy said. “We will always do that, and then after this board, if we are granted approval, we’re going to go to licensing and seek an innkeeper’s license for that person who is the 24/7 contact on site.”

He said that while the “vast majority” of guests do not bring cars, there is room on the street for about five or six cars.

“We engaged in a robust community process,” Tracy said. “We had a successful abutters meeting, the JPNC unanimously supported, and we just submitted over 400 signatures of residents who are in support.”

ZBA member Mark Erlich told the applicants that while he understands the changing of language and rules surrounding short term rentals in the city, “it does feel a little bit sort of like after the fact,” he said, citing the fact that this property has been running as a short term rental property for some time now. “It was not a three family house, it was an 11-room boutique hotel,” he said. ZBA Chair Christine Araujo agreed: “yes, it’s better to come here than to ask for forgiveness,” she said.

“What I would say to that is as the city is wrapping their arms around this new industry and putting out the rules and regulations, they’ve told us to go through this process and we followed their council on that,” Tracy responded.

Councilors O’Malley, Essaibi-George, and Flaherty were all in support of the project, as was JP neighborhood liaison Enrique Pepen. “The developer and the owner have done an amazing job working with the mayor’s office trying to get things right,” Pepen said. “They have received support from Hyde Square Task Force, Hyde Square Main Streets, JPNC, they’ve done an increasing amount of letters of support and signatures from direct abutters and JP residents all around.” He also confirmed that there were two abutters meetings, “both were well done and lots of support for residents,” he said.

Others were not so thrilled about the project. A direct abutter said that in the time the establishment has been operating, “I have noticed an uptick in cars from New York and Pennsylvania that I was not previously noting on the street,” he said. He said that other projects in the area, such as the dispensary down the street, are creating additional traffic.

Another neighbor in opposition said that due to the building not being owner-occupied, the owner will not be able to register the property with the short-term rental registry. She also said that she opposes the project because it is a forbidden use, and “the city is trying to preserve carriage houses generally.”

“As of this morning, when I spoke with someone at the housing division of Inspectional Services, petitioner Mr. Sandler [the owner] had received both first and second notices of his need to register this property as a short term rental with the city,” she said.

Given all of the information by the applicants, elected officials, and the public, a motion was made to approve the project. Four of the five present ZBA members voted in favor of the motion, but Araujo opposed it, so the motion did not carry and the project was denied.

Tracy then asked if they could withdraw the case to be heard at a different time, but Araujo said that would not be possible since a decision had already been made.

32 Rockview Street

At 32 Rockview Street, the applicant proposed to add an addition onto the existing three family home to create a four family home, according to attorney Marc LaCasse.

The units will be condos for ownership and consult of one two bedroom unit and three three bedroom units. There is a roof deck proposed, by LaCasse said that there are no zoning violations associated with it.

LaCasse said that the front door of the existing building is for access to one of the units, and a side door on the existing building for the second unit. Between the two structures is a third door that will be the entrance to the two units in the addition. “At the request of the JPNC Zoning Committee, a walkway was added from the front yard leading to the entrances that are not at the front to address that design-related issue,” he said.

JP neighborhood liaison Enrique Pepen said an abutters meeting was held, and “while there were some residents who were concerned, they worked hard to come up with some solutions,” he said. “The JPNC approved the project and that’s why we’re also here to support this project.” Councilor O’Malley was also in support.

A neighbor on Rockview St. said that her ”part of the street” opposes this project because it “just seems like you would disregard the zoning regulations that were put in place to protect and preserve the neighborhood for really the purpose of greed,” she told the ZBA. “I just would want to register that at that JP Zoning Board meeting, we were treated in an incredibly disrespectful, rude, dismissive way, and people were mocked” for things like having too small or too big a yard, she said. She said they did not approve of the addition on the building on that lot size.

In addition to that neighbor, Araujo said there were three more abutters who submitted letters in opposition to the project.

“We went through the community process,” LaCasse said. He said the project received a favorable vote from the JPNC and a letter of support from a direct abutter.

The project was approved by all five board members with the proviso that it undergo continued Boston Planning and Development Agency design review.

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