SNA Votes Not to Oppose Development at 34-36 Rossmore Rd.

The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) met virtually on July 13, where the group discussed and voted not to oppose the proposed development at 34-36 Rossmore Rd.

Developer Liam Lydon and architect Elaine Scales, who have previously presented proposals for this lot, presented the latest design to the SNA.

Lydon explained that there is an existing two family home at 34 Rossmore Rd., which will be torn down and replaced with a three family building. Another three family will also be erected at 36 Rossmore, similar to the one at 41 Rossmore Rd., which was also designed by Scales.

Lydon said that the team has made some changes to the proposal over the past year, including the addition of more green space, pushing the building back, and a few other design elements. He said that within the next month, 34 Rossmore Rd. will be taken down.

Scales said that for both new buildings, “all of the primary living spaces are facing southeast and overlooking the open space of the tot lot, and are very visible as you drive up Rossmore Rd.”

She said that 36 Rossmore Road is on the corner and will have a sloped roof, while 34 Rossmore will have a flat roof. She said that she felt it would be “too much” if both roofs were sloped, but she said that 36 Rossmore should have the sloped roof because it is diagonally across from 41 Rossmore and will create “a nice dynamic with it.”

Each unit will have its own front porch (with a solid roof over the third floor) as well, she said, and each building is set back nine feet from Rossmore Rd. Each unit is around 1,060 square feet.

“Initially, we had a setback that matched 41 Rossmore Rd. exactly,” Scales said, which is slightly under six feet. “Discussion came up about providing extra green space up front,” which she said was “achieved by removing two of the parking spaces in the back. On one hand, two buyers would not get a parking space, but on the other hand, there is more green space in the front and in the back of the property,” she said.

The zoning violations for the project include an open space violation, insufficient off street parking, parking design maneuverability, insufficient lot area, the Floor Area Ratio is excessive, and insufficient front and side yards. Scales said this lot and these violations are similar to those of 41 Rossmore Rd.

The issue of trees had been brought up by neighbors in the past, and Lydon said that an arborist “suggested most trees should come down,” but he said he is “willing to revisit that after the demo is done.” He said he believes that two of the trees are able to be saved. The arborist suggested planting river birch or maples in the place of the trees that are cut down, he added.

 “We don’t have a full landscape plan, but as soon as we do, I’ll submit it and we can tweak that any which way we like,” he said.

SNA member Jennifer Uhrhane said that “one of the big worries for the abutters is the loss of tree canopy. She said she wanted to “acknowledge Liam for making the effort” of getting an arborist out to the site to see which trees would work best to replace the canopy in the long run. She said she appreciates the suggestion of river birch and maple trees, as they will eventually get tall and fill out the canopy.

 Lydon was asked how much the units will sell for, to which he replied “hard to say.” He said he initially thought they would sell for “somewhere in the $600,000 range,” as “that allows us to put in a good finish and do a nice job.”

SNA member Fred Vetterlein said that “the work Liam has done is the highest level.” He said that “the design that Elaine brought in for 41 [Rossmore Rd.] and where this corner building is—it’s just great. The neighborhood needed that balance. I think it’s a tremendous addition to the neighborhood and I’m fully in support of it.”

The SNA continued to discuss the proposal once the development team left the Zoom call.

“We spent a lot of time working with Liam and the subcommittee going over several issues,”  Sue Cibulsky, chair of the subcommittee for this project, said. “Liam was easy to work with; very willing to negotiate with us.” She said that there are currently no outstanding issues from the subcommittee, as Lydon agreed to reduce the off-street parking to increase the green space, as well as build a new concrete sidewalk around the project and install new fencing along the west and north sides of the lot. He also worked with the group on increasing the front setback.

“Elaine did not want to put a roof on the [3rd floor] front porch at 34 Rossmore,” Cibulsky said, but the “majority” of the subcommittee felt there should be one there, so the team agreed to put one. The project will also use dark sky compliant lighting, Cibulsky added.

As a result of negotiations with the project team, “we ended up with a building that I can say pretty much everybody is happy with,” she said. “It fits in with the neighborhood.”

SNA Steering Committee member Trevyn Langsford said that he was pleased with the increase in green space and that the permeable surface proposed for the driveway “is really cool.”

Jonathan McCurdy, another Steering Committee member, agreed with Cibulsky that Lydon has been “easy to work with” and willing to listen to different ideas from members of the community, which he said is “very different than what we usually see. I appreciate that.”

Larry and Wendy McCarthy, who live across the street from 41 Rossmore Rd., mentioned that when 41 Rossmore was being built, they were “impressed” with how the construction went and said that the construction was “not disruptive at all to the neighborhood.”

A brief discussion of affordability was also brought up, and Langsford said that it is “hard to push for affordability in a project like this. SNA does demand affordable housing conditions be met or exceeded in larger projects.” He added that he would like to be a “more forceful voice on affordability in new projects.”

Uhrhane agreed: “it’s very hard to do small, privately funded projects affordable,” she said. “Generally it’s a larger project getting federal, state or city funds doing affordable.” She said that it is possible to ask Lydon to sell the units without a parking space for less money.

The SNA voted not to oppose this development, and will write a letter to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council saying so, ahead of their vote on the project.

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