Building work stopped twice

Gazette Photo by John Swan
Major work at the lot being called 248 Chestnut Ave. was stopped by the Inspectional Services Department twice last week because of no building permits. The parcel is part of the property at 244 Chestnut Ave.

The City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) issued two stop work orders on two separate occasions after trees were cleared, neighbors’ gardens were destroyed and a foundation was dug, a retaining wall built and driveway poured at 248 Chestnut Ave. without a building permit, according to Lisa Timberlake, ISD spokesperson.

An abutter said as of Tuesday, a large-yellow digging tractor had been removed from the property.

The 248 Chestnut Ave. does not exist in the city’s records as a recognized parcel. According to Timberlake, there is some sort of permit pending for something at 248 Chestnut Ave. But, she said ISD computers have been down since last Wednesday, so she could not access the permit application for details.

Rob Orthman, spokesperson from City Councilor John Tobin’s office said the permit application was rumored to be for a three-family house. But, he said, that information had already been funneled through a number of sources.

According to Timberlake, an initial stop work order was issued at the site, Friday March 23, after ISD was alerted to groundbreaking, when a concerned neighbor contacted the Gazette, City Councilor John Tobin, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and State Rep. Liz Malia. A number of neighbors also contacted local officials to express their grievances about the issue.

The owner of 244 Chestnut St., Daniel Nakamoto, is believed to also be the owner of 248 Chestnut, according to the abutter, Orthman and ISD. According to the city’s records, Nakamoto is a Winchester resident. He could not be reached for comment.

According to the neighbor, who asked to be called “the abutter,” either Wednesday or Thursday, March 21 or 22, workers started digging at 248 Chestnut. When the abutter called ISD March 23, they were told 248 Chestnut Ave did not exist. The confusion unleashed a series of fact-digging and phone calls among local officials, before it was determined there was an application for a building permit on file. An ISD inspector was sent to examine the site. A stop work order was issued.

When the Gazette talked to the abutter on March 23, it was reported there were not any laborers working. It was raining that day.

However, despite already being legally mandated to stop work, construction had restarted by April 4. Timberlake said a second stop work order was issued to the site by an ISD inspector that afternoon.

The City of Boston does not allow construction to begin without proper permits. In addition, the abutter and Orthman said if the foundation was in fact dug for a three-family residential house, it seemed large and close to the neighbors’ houses.

“I would think it would need a variance. It looks like it,” said Orthman. “But I can’t say for certain. Our office was most focused on the fact construction was done before a permit was filed.”

Dave Isburg, Tobin’s chief of staff, said the decision to approve or deny the application for a building permit, could be affected by the fact that work started, was ordered to stop, restarted and then was handed a second stop work order. “It could be,” he said. “It’s still in the early stages.”

“I guess it just started out of nowhere,” said the abutter.

“[A three family house] would be a big change to neighborhood,” said the abutter. “All of a sudden, I’m thinking, “What’s going to happen?’”

The abutter said the whole composition of the neighborhood would be altered. “My preference would be he doesn’t do anything,” the abutter said.

According to the abutter, last year, Nakamoto, was approved for a variance to change the zoning from a three- to four-family residence at 244 Chestnut.

At that time, according to the abutter, Nakamoto told the renters at 244 he would sell them the condos. He also, according to the abutter, told neighbors he did not plan to build anything on the open space. That open space has now become the believed construction site.

According to the city’s online assessing records, 244 Chestnut Ave. is a 15,000 square foot lot zoned for a three-family house.

The abutter said after talking to neighbors who live on either side of 244 Chestnut, the abutter got the impression the people did not want to be involved.

The abutter said the same of some of the residents who live in the
building at 244.

“They’ve been there a long time. They are quiet,” said the abutter. “I think because they are trying to buy the unit, they do not want to get involved.”

Timberlake said in order to create a new property, an owner can apply for a permit through a process known as subdivision, which would create a new parcel by cutting a small piece from another.

But, she said, an application must be completed, filed and approved before any construction or legal recognition of that property can occur. According to Timberlake, as part of the application the owner is obligated to report why the division is wanted and what is going to be done at the new property, including the lot size and building type—if construction is part of the subdivision request. If variances were needed, there would need to be a legal zoning process, involving neighbors, the JP Neighborhood Council and the City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeal.

Timberlake said Nakamoto has filed an application for a permit for 248 Chestnut Avenue, but ISD computers are down so it cannot be viewed.

The abutter was happy at the response by local officials.

“I think he [the owner, or contractor, or whoever started construction without a permit] has to abide to the law like everyone else,” said the abutter. “I think the right people are on top of it.”

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