Whose property rights count?
On Wednesday evening (Nov. 15th) the Zoning Committee of the JPNC deliberated over development plans for two adjacent lots on Lamartine Street (279 and 281). The Committee rejected the plans by a margin of 9-3. The developer, Nikolaos Ligris, will now take his plans before the City of Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeals on December 12th at 10:30am. The following is adapted from the letter I submitted to the Zoning Committee prior to the meeting:
My family and I live at 277 Lamartine, in a modest single-family home of the same style and vintage as the home that Ligris purchased. Greater density in this area is inevitable, and indeed desirable. These decisions, however, should be made with due respect to the zoning laws of the city and the property rights of neighbors and abutters. They should not be decided unilaterally by speculative real estate investors who profess their love for urban living, but who, like Ligris, do so from McMansions in suburban enclaves.
Ligris intends to build two structures (one 3-family and one 2-family). Although the lots are zoned 3-Family, neither lot possesses sufficient square footage to lawfully allow for 3 residential units. The proposed development consists of five (5) 3-bed 3-bath condominiums. The units are large, averaging almost 2,200 sq. ft. each, and the project requires at least eight (8) variances for height, size, and lot configuration. In sum, the project exceeds what is permissible by law, and will only provide housing for the very wealthiest Bostonians.
Mr. Ligris made a speculative and irresponsible real estate purchase when he paid $1,275,000 for a modest single family home on two dramatically sloped rocky lots. He is now demanding exemptions from the City’s Zoning Codes in order to ensure that he and his investors will profit from that transaction as handsomely as they imagined. But the zoning rules and regulations from which Mr. Ligris so readily claims exemption are the same laws that are supposed to protect the property rights of homeowners. What about the rights of those of us who already have to stretch to purchase property in this market? Does a developer’s right to profit supersede our rights and protections as homeowners? If Mr. Ligris can’t profit by building within the legal limitations then denying his proposal would perhaps send a signal to other speculators.
My wife and I (a research scientist and an educator) have dedicated our professional lives to careers that advance human wellbeing. We are now facing the reality that our legal rights may not hold up against those with deeper pockets and blatantly self-serving ambitions. Ligris’ big payday will dwarf and darken our home and property. I have made peace with the fact that I will no longer be able to grow tomatoes next to my home. But I refuse to accept the fact that the rights of Mr. Ligris and his investors trump my rights as a homeowner.
Jamaica Plain resident
On the Slow Streets program
If we had built a smaller, Richardson-style bridge at Forest Hills I wouldn’t have to use Williams St. to get to work. We lost that argument and are only hoping to live to see the project completed and if it will have created a giant parking lot, or not. On Williams St. the Slow Streets Program has added three speed bumps to two stop signs. For the law-abiding that is five stops in what amounts to one city block. Without minimizing the problem of impatient drivers on residential streets, I would say this is laying a good thing on a bit thick.
David A. Mittell, Jr.
Jamaica Plain resident
Problems with Hyde Square renovation
As a Jamaica Plain resident who does a great deal of walking and bike riding around town, I want to say I don’t think the new design of Hyde Square improves the square for anyone, in any way—not for pedestrians, bike riders, or drivers. It is visually busy, confusing, stark. Just today as I was walking I saw two drivers confused about who had right of way. So many years planning, so many months constructing. A true shame.
Jamaica Plain resident
Raise age for tobacco products
At Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot Health Center, we provide preventive care to help our young patients avoid risky behaviors — like smoking — that could jeopardize their health. That’s why we strongly support raising the sale age of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
For more than 50 years, we have been proud to provide health care to countless children and young adults from Jamaica Plain and across Massachusetts. As providers, we know that it’s when kids are in middle and high school that they are most likely to start smoking and make it a lifelong addiction. Students who are 18 can buy tobacco products, and it’s easy for young kids to access them.
We are grateful to House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez, who represents our district and has been cosponsor of legislation to raise the tobacco age to 21. Rep. Sanchez also authored one of the key components of the bill that would modernize regulations regarding e-cigarettes, the tobacco product most likely to be used by children these days.
According to the Centers for Disease Control if smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.
We implore lawmakers to join the five other states that have already passed this common-sense legislation to make sure that Massachusetts kids have the best chance possible to grow up free from tobacco addiction.
Maurice W. Melchiono
Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot Health Center