JPA Talks Community Safety, Zoning Proposal, and 701 Centre St.

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) met for its first meeting of the new decade on January 6, where they heard a crime year in review from Officer William Jones, heard a zoning presentation from a neighbor, and discussed ongoing issues.

Officer Jones offered the year in review from a crime standpoint. Citywide, hw said there was a three percent reduction in part one crimes, and the lowest number of homicides in 10 years. There were also the least amount of robberies in ten years, Jones said. He said the city is doing well overall, though some categories saw increases.

“This is all about how we do our community policing,” he said. “It really does have a positive impact.”

When asked about the newly passed hands-free law, Williams said that right now, warnings are being issued for infractions for a set period of time, but after that, the first offense is a $100 fine.

New JP Liaison Lindsey Santana also introduced herself at the meeting, and told the group that she is working on issues with traffic, speeding, and crosswalks with the Boston Transportation Department and will report back when she has specific updates to share.

At 561-579 Centre Street, residents have complained that they have been exposed to contaminated soil, as JP Gas had a pie of soil left uncovered after digging. Santana said she had done a walkthrough, and shared that the city has been issuing orders for them to clean it or take it away, but the owners have been unresponsive. She said they have taken the issues and orders down and throwing them on the ground.

She said that the Public Health commissioner has gone out and inspected the area and has determined that the pile is contaminated. “I assume it’s just standard petroleum waste,” said JPA member Michael Reiskind. “It’s not heavy metals or radioactive waste.”

More information is expected to come on this matter.

11 Halifax Street

Ashley Rao, owner and occupant of 11 Halifax St. Unit 2 presented a proposal to increase the attic space from 1558 to 2715 square feet, which would result in excessive Floor Area Ration for the building and the addition of dormer windows adds a half story, which also triggers an excessive height violation.

Rao, who lives in the unit with her husband and two school-age daughters, said they would like to expand the attic space to add bedrooms and another bathroom, as they need more space for their family as their daughters get older. They have lived in the unit for eight years, she said.

“The continuity of the overall streetscape is important,” Rao, who is also an architect and designed the proposal, said.

“We are not increasing the size of the building on the plot at all,” she said. She said the proposed dormers would change the character of the building as little as possible.

She said she appreciates the public process and values the opinion of her neighbors.

JPA member Kevin Moloney said he appreciates the way Rao views the history of the street and the fact that she needs space for a growing family, but he believes the proposal changes the building into looking like a three story building.

“My goal is to minimize the change as much as possible, but there is not denying that there is a change,” Rao responded. She said four neighbors attended the abutters meeting for the project, and all comments were favorable, including from the neighbor who lives in Unit 1.

Michael Reiskind suggested that the appearance of the addition might be minimized by using a different type of siding so it appears receded fro the main portion of the building. Rao agreed with this, and said it was something she would explore further.

Rob Barker and his wife live next door to 11 Halifax, and said they are “fully supportive” of the project. “I think it’ll add to the neighborhood and keep a valuable neighbor in the neighborhood,” Barker said. “I don’t think it’s going to change the character of the street or the character of any of the buildings on the street.”

His wife said she “doesn’t see it adding anything huge to our line of view,” and wants to keep neighbors who want to stay in the neighborhood and raise their kids in the Boston Public Schools. “That’s what the spirit and magic of Halifax St. is,” she said.

Despite some disagreements among JPA members about the design, the JPA voted not to oppose this project.

701 Centre Update

Architects Gert Thorn and Ed Forte gave an update on the situation at the Chase Bank at 701 Centre St., after meeting with the city several times to express their dissatisfaction with non-historic renovations made to the building without community input.

Thorn reported that they have sat down with the Boston Planning and Development Agency and Chase and “Chase was very helpful,” he said. “They’ve agreed to changing the facade construction which is a major milestone for all of us.”

Forte said that the owner of the building who leases it to Chase said she was surprised when she learned the changes were made, as she was not told about it beforehand.

Forte, Thorn, and other supporters plan on holding a community meeting sometime at the end of the month to give the community an overview of what has happened so far, and for Chase to explain what they will do moving forward, Thorn said.

The JPA voted to sponsor or co-sponsor a community meeting regarding this issue.

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