Another threat to Allandale Woods
Once again, a developer is proposing to build a project adjacent to protected wetlands in Allandale Woods that completely ignores all zoning standards and would by-pass the most basic of wetlands protections. The development would be at 1225 Centre Street, which is the site of the former gas station between Sophia Snow Place and the closed Spaulding Rehab. The parcel is 1/3 of an acre and now consists of a gravel turn-around that abuts one of Boston’s last two vernal pool sites. Vernal pools are fragile, seasonal, woodland ponds that do not have a fish population but are critical for amphibians like frogs and salamanders. They have major, positive impacts on increasing the biodiversity of the surrounding habitat. In this case, that is Allandale Woods, the remarkable 100 acre urban forest on the JP/West Roxbury line. Boston Parks, which manages Allandale Woods as an urban wild, has called that wetland areas one of the most important ecological sites in Boston.
Well-known, neighborhood developer Gary Martell is proposing to build six condominium units on this small and once-contaminated site that is currently zoned for one housing unit. His 40 foot tall buildings would be within seven feet of Centre Street despite current zoning calling for a setback of 40 feet. For decades, drivers coming down the hill from Faulkner Hospital have enjoyed the aesthetics of a parkway with only institutional buildings that have 50 to 150 foot setbacks and attractive landscaping. A four-story tall building right up next to the street would stick out dramatically and mar more than a half- century of thoughtful neighborhood planning.
This entire parcel is within a wetlands buffer zone, which can allow some minor disturbance or building but not the near entire coverage of the lot with two buildings and 15 parking spaces. The site was also wisely placed during the 1990’s in a special conservation sub-district which requires greater design and public review. The developer has held two abutters meetings and has appeared twice before the Boston Conservation Commission (BCC). The conservation sub-district zoning is explicit that this is out of order, and that full design and neighborhood review must be in place before this project proposal can appear before the BCC or the Zoning Board of Appeals. The conservation sub-district zoning also requires a 50 foot setback from the back boundary of the property adjacent to the vernal pool while the developer proposes a 5 foot setback or 1/10 what is required by law.
In the City’s push for more housing units, zoning standards for developers have been largely ignored. This outrageous proposal would now put decades-old wetlands and conservation laws on the altar of development at all costs. Please contact your city councilors and the Mayor’s Office to let them know that we do not have to sacrifice the natural legacy that so distinguishes the Parkway neighborhoods. Let them know that we are open to development with thoughtful planning and rules enforcement that applies to everyone, both the developer as well as the homeowner.
In response to Gustaf Berger’s article, “JP Panhandlers, part 2 – Who are we?” JP Gazette, April 13, I must admit I have felt many of the respondents’ attitudes and actions – both good and not-so-good. I am annoyed at times, but feel thankful and generous on other occasions. My interaction with one particular panhandler three years ago has, in some ways, turned my views upside down.
One person quoted in Berger’s article stated, in part, “…they go home to a beautiful house with a pool, etc… Let them get a regular job.” While I never imagined they went home to beautiful villas or pools, I, too, thought most every able-bodied panhandler could work for a living. The panhandler I saw quite often on Centre St during the summer of 2016 was a young man who appeared to be in his late 20’s and seemed perfectly capable of working rather than panhandling.
One day I stopped to talk with him and I honestly shared my views with him. His response was that he has 5 kids to support, and works p/t as often as he can, sometimes overnight hours. However, he continued, low wage jobs still couldn’t help him make ends meet. And, he often didn’t find the sort of job that might pay more, as he was a young black male with tattoos, who fit a certain stereotype many of us try to debunk. Right on the spot, I asked him if he wanted a p/t job with my company, to which he immediately and excitedly replied YES! (I own and operate a gardening business and am always looking for good workers.) He started work the very next day and worked diligently for me for two years.
Two weeks ago, as the gardening season started, I called him and once again he will be working for me a third year in a row. My p/t work doesn’t pay all his bills, so he still takes other p/t work when he can get it, and, occasionally still panhandles. To those of us who can (local shop or business owners), take the time to stop and talk with a panhandler who seems capable of working for a living. Panhandlers, like the one with whom I spoke and then hired p/t, take no special pride in panhandling as their sole source of income. With a job, even if only p/t, comes a greater feeling of self worth. And, a job, unlike change placed into a cup, provides a brighter future. As the trite old cliché goes, “give a person a fish and s/he eats for a day; teach a person how to fish and s/he eats for a lifetime.”
Sole Proprietor, Glenn’s Gardening & Woodworking