ZBA Approves 35 Brookley Proposal, but Says Community Concerns Need to Be Addressed

The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) on July 21 approved (with provisos) the project proposed for 35 Brookley/10 Stonley Road, which has caused some controversy within the surrounding community. The project was originally set to come before the ZBA on March 10, but the developers deferred at the request of Lindsey Santana, the Mayor’s liaison for Jamaica Plain.

The ZBA had not been holding meetings for a while due to COVID-19, but has now begun holding virtual meetings to address some of the backlog that has accumulated over the past several months.

Attorney John Pulgini told the ZBA on Tuesday that the proposed plan was to build a four story,  45 unit building on the lot, which is zoned for local/industrial. The current building, which is a warehouse and offices for Northeastern Petroleum Service and Supply, abuts the Arborway bus yard.

The proposed height for the building is a little over 49 feet, and 10 affordable units were proposed, making the building 23 percent affordable. “For a privately developed project I think this is the first time we’ve seen those kinds of numbers,” Pulgini said.

The building also incorporates five artist live/work spaces on the ground floor, which Pulgini said will help neighbors engage with artists and their work.

On the third floor, stepped back from the residential neighborhood (in compliance with PLAN: JP/ROX, according to Pulgini), is a roof deck.

Pulgini said that the project is PLAN: JP/ROX compliant, but several neighbors have pushed back claiming this is not true. Pulgini said that the plan allows for increased height and density in exchange for more affordability.

The ZBA reported that they received three letters of support for the project.

Lindsey Santana of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that this project went through an “extensive community process,” but the community still has “concerns pertaining to height and density.” She said the mayor’s office is “excited” about the amount of affordability and the artist live/work spaces, and that the office is in support of the project.

Justin McClarey from City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s office said that the councilor “appreciates” the PLAN: JP/ROX compliance and that he is also in support of the project, but hw would like to see the developers continue to work with the surrounding community on mitigation measures to address their ongoing concerns.

Many neighbors, including some from the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) who live near the site, have been trying to work with the developer for some time now on reduing the density of the building, as they do not feel it is the right size for the area. Many agree that something should be built on the site to activate the area, but this particular proposal is too large and too dense.

One of those neighbors, Emma Wright, is co-chair of the SNA’s committee for the project and said at the ZBA hearing that the “setbacks are sort of unacceptable especially in the rear yard.” She said they will “create a real alley-like effect.”

Jennifer Uhrhane is the other co-chair of the subcommittee, and has been outspoken about the proposal since it was first proposed.

Uhrhane told the ZBA that the project “has not significantly changed since the developer has requested deferral.”

She added that she does not believe the project is in compliance with PLAN: JP/ROX, “the worst of” the non-compliance being the rear yard setback. She said the building will only be seven and a half feet from the property line “as opposed to the required 20 foot setback line.”

She also said the lack of green space is an issue, and she said the building takes up “so much space” in the area.

“I would like the Board to take into account the overwhelming…opposition, including the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council,” she said. “It’s a good project, just not for this parcel,”

The ZBA ultimately voted to approve the project with BPDA design review focused on density, massing, and setback. They also said they would like to see the project as Board Final Arbiter “if there is any misunderstanding about what our intent is.”

ZBA member Mark Erlich said that “I think overall, the project is wroth proceeding but it needs to be downsized to reflect some of the community concerns.”

ZBA Chair Christine Araujo agreed: “This has merits to it, however, it is too dense and the rear yard setback and open space requirements need to be met.”

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