JPNC holds monthly meeting

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 28, via Zoom. Chair Renee Stacey Welch presided over the session that was attended by State Rep. Sam Montano and Caroline Peters, the liaison to Jamaica Plain from the mayor’s office. 

JPNC members in attendance were vice-chair Bernard Doherty, at-large members Purple Reign, Sarah Freeman, Michael Reiskind, and David Baron; Area A  members Willie Mitchell, Peter DeCotis, Esther Beillard, and Danielle Sommer-Kieta; Area B member Lorenzo Bartoloni; and Area C members Peg Preble, Katherine O’Shea, and Gert Thorn.

Preble shared at the start of the meeting that she is stepping down from her position on the council, though she would be staying on as a Community Member of the Zoning Committee.

Doherty also stated at the outset that he was “happy to see” that a recent loud music party was broken up promptly by the Boston Police Dept. and that seven persons were arrested.

The council heard from its various committees. Reiskind presented the report of the Public Service Committee’s meeting on May 7. He said the committee discussed the proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances, which Reiskind termed as “fairly innocuous,” regarding cannabis dispensaries.

Reiskind also reported that the JP business community is seeking to find a new tenant for the large space at 716 Centre St., where the longstanding Boomerangs second-hand clothing & furniture store that benefits AIDS treatment & prevention is closing. He said that among the suggestions for the re-use of the space is a marketplace-style format with multiple vendors.

Baron presented the report of the Zoning Committee. He said that the committee took up four applications for variances at its meeting on May 15. He said that three of the matters were non-controversial and were approved unanimously by the Zoning Committee. However, the application for a variance from the rear-yard setback requirements at 23 Gay Head St., where the owner is seeking to add a shed dormer and a rear addition as part of a comprehensive renovation of a Queen Ann Victorian to convert the house from a one-family to a two-family, met with some opposition from neighbors.

Baron characterized the opposition from neighbors as “all over the place,” with some suggesting that the addition will bring more vehicles and others stating that they did not like the look of the addition. However, a majority of the Zoning Committee approved the application by a vote of 7-4-1.

One of the neighbors spoke to the JPNC to express her opposition, noting that the rear addition will alter the architectural integrity of the neighborhood, which she said has remained essentially unchanged since 1895, and will interfere with the views of many neighbors. She also said that the addition will require that three trees be removed.

After some discussion, the members approved the recommendations of the Zoning Committee regarding all four properties. The owners still must go before the City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals in order to obtain their variances.

O’Shea presented the report of the Outreach Committee. She said the principal discussion at its May meeting centered around establishing the JPNC as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. However, she noted that the onerous requirements under the law may preclude the JPNC from moving forward on that issue.

Sommer-Kieta raised the question of whether rodent control problems in the neighborhood should come within the purview of the Outreach Committee, specifically with regard to conducting a survey of residents about the problem.

Sommer-Kieta presented the report of the Housing and Development Committee. She said the group heard from the developer of a new project at 140 Wachusett St. near Forest Hills. The project will entail removing a single family home, which sits on a large parcel, on which the developer hopes to construct a 28-unit building consisting principally of studio and one-bedroom units. She said the committee urged the developer to provide more housing for families (2 and 3-bedroom units) and that the project provide 18 percent affordable housing units, which would be more than the 13 percent threshold that the city presently requires (that percentage will increase to 17 percent in the fall).

Nick Chaves, the co-chair of the Parks and Open Space Committee, sent an email regarding a recent meeting with city officials regarding the controversial White Stadium project. The city is proposing that the long-forgotten and decaying stadium be renovated in order for the coming Boston women’s professional soccer team to be able to use it as its home field.

Sue Cibulski from the Arborway Garage Sub-Committee provided an update on the work of the sub-committee. She noted that the MBTA has not yet responded to a letter from the JPNC regarding the JPNC’s opposition to the T locating a 150-car parking lot for T employees within the eight acres of land that has been designated for community development purposes since 2001 pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding. Cibulski requested that the JNPC send a follow-up letter.

However, she also noted that the present state budget does not provide full funding for the new Arborway garage, which could further delay its construction beyond the hoped-for completion date of 2029. The new garage is an essential component of the T’s planned electrification of its entire bus fleet, which has been ordered by the legislature to be accomplished by 2040. The new garage will house about 200 electric buses.

The final piece of business for the meeting was the election of Caliga to fill one of the four open seats on the JPNC.

Reiskind added a final note to inform the community that the city has approved grants of up to $700 for residents to hold Block Parties in their neighborhoods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *