JPA Hears Controversial Proposal for 61 Arborway

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) met for their monthly meeting on September 9 at the Jamaicaway Tower. Although the agenda had several items on it, the meeting room was packed with residents who were concerned about the proposed project at 61 Arborway, also known as “The Castle.”

JPA Zoning Committee Chair Kevin Moloney said that the proposed project is to subdivide the lot at 61 Arborway, keep the existing single family, and erect a new two-family home. Zoning violations include that the project its in the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District (which requires approval from the Parks Department), Floor Area Ratio is excessive, the number of stories is excessive, and the front yard is insufficient. There are also issues of conformity with existing building alignment, and the community is concerned about a two family house being built in an area zoned for one family homes. The property is owned by the Stamatos family.

 Attorney Derric Small said that the parcel is 30,927 square feet, which would create a little over 15,000 square feet for each dwelling once the land is subdivided. The required Floor Area Ratio is .3, but the proposal is .38. “We are staying under the heat with regard of footage,” Small said. The height requirement is 35 feet, and the proposal is 34 feet, seven inches. The violation lies in the number of stories proposed, which is three.

Residents were upset that this proposal came before the JPA before an abutters meeting was held, but Small said that neighborhood liaison Enrique Pepen is working to schedule an abutters meeting ASAP; this meeting just ended up coming first.

JPA member Jamie Maguire asked the project proponents what their hardship was for seeking these variances, and Small said that “we’re trying to provide housing for families,” and cited the shape of the lot as a hardship.

“You would suffer no hardship to reduce the thing a tiny bit so it would be in compliance,” said JPA member David Moier. He did recognize that the lot is “twisted” a bit so it would present a challenge, however.

Two people from the community spoke in support of the project, but most of those in attendance were in opposition. One such opponent said that this was the first time he’s seeing this proposal, “which is part of the problem,” he said. He said that he is not opposed to a development that is smaller, in line with the character of the neighborhood, and a single family, but he is opposed to the project as it stands now.

An abutter at the corner of the street said she has noticed that the property has been “very poorly maintained” over the last year and years prior, and is concerned that the new building would follow suit.

One of the Stamatos’ (who currently lives in the house at 61 Arboway) said that they’ve been fixing major leaks on the roof and addressing those larger issues. “I understand your concerns,” he said to her, “but everything you see, all that stuff is going to be removed, the property will be properly landscaped, and everything will be up to par to fit within the neighborhood.”

Another direct abutter said that there is no problem with a single family home, but a two family home is unusual for the area. “I think we need to see what this looks like in the neighborhood,” he said. “This is a mammoth structure,” and it is not appropriate from a historical perspective.

Elaine Scales, a JP resident and architect, said that this is a very well known property on the Arborway, which is an artery in the city. She suggested that the presentation should include all of the abutting properties on the site plan so it is easier to see how the structure would fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. She also suggested having a 2D election drawing from the Arborway. “I don’t think that this design fits into the context very well,” she said. “I don’t think it has the character of the other properties on the street.” She said that the Castle is “such a unique building,” and having a single family would be better than a two family on that site.

 Several neighbors expressed concern that they did not see justification for “breaking the zoning rules,” as one put it. Others were concerned about the precedent that might be set if a two family house is built there.

“The major issue is this two family in a one family zone,” Moloney said. “You have to prove hardship,” he said, as the other variances are more insignificant and can probably be overlooked. “We would like to hear the willingness of your clients to rethink the size, look, and feel of the proposed building,” he said to Small.

There was a comment made about the housing crisis in Boston, and that any housing that adds to the stock would be welcome. Moloney said that “I think it is within the realm of possibility that an appropriately sized two-family could work in this space.

“To further clutter the Arborway with another building that has to be squeezed in seems to be a bit excessive,” said JPA member Franklyn Salimbene. “I have some serious issues with this proposal.”

Moloney said that hopefully this project will look different after the abutters meeting and a presentation at the Jamaica Hills Association that’s scheduled for October 9. Small said that they are pushing to have the abutters meeting before the JHA meeting.

The JPA decided to take no action on this matter, but they will pick it up again for consideration at their November meeting after the abutters and the Jamaica Hills Association have heard it.

Comments Submitted for Work at 723 Centre St.

The Jamaica Point Association drafted a letter to Kristina Ricco, Senior Planner at the Boston Planning and Development Agency in mid-August to explain their concern for design work proposed for Costello’s Tavern at 723 Centre St. All proposed work can be done as of right, but the JPA and several neighbors are concerned about the work as it relates to the historic property.

Paul Iantosca, owner of what he says is the oldest building on Centre St.—707-715 Centre St. (Coldwell Banker, Noodle Barn, and Casa Verde),—said at the meeting that he historically restored the building in the 1980s. “We have windows on the left side of the building,” Iantosca said which will be blocked by a brick wall proposed in the Costello’s project. “There should be an accommodation for our windows and our ventilation,” he said, adding that he has sent full pictures of the windows to city departments.

Iantosca said the Costello’s plans include modern-day brick, which would be a contrast with the historic brick in the area. He also thinks the building should be Victorian style to keep in context with the rest of the block.

Additionally, Iantosca said he wants to ask the owners of Costello’s to store their trash in the basement and remove the dumpster from the back of the property. “We have no leverage to make them do it but I would hope that they would like to be good neighbors,” Iantosca said. “We want to make a good building too that the community can be proud of.”

Iantosca said that he understands this type of work is a matter of right in certain districts in the city, “but I think the public should be involved in the design.”

JPA member Peter Elmuts said that he “appreciates” Iantosca’s concern for preserving the historic look of the building.

The JPA voted to write another letter to the city that includes these specific details laid out by Iantosca.

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