The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee met virtually on February 17 to discuss proposals at 11 Danforth St. and 14 Meehan St., which has been fairly contentious among residents of the Stonybrook neighborhood.
11 DANFORTH ST.
Kyle Matthew of the Wilbur Group and KM Construction proposed on behalf of 11 Danforth St. owner Shira Karman to renovate her existing attic to add two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a stairway with no change of occupancy.
Matthew said that Karman has lived in Unit 3 since 1984 and has “always wanted to finish the attic space.”
He added that there are “numerous three family dwellings in the area that have created four floors of living space,” and this proposal “falls in line with what other neighbors have been approved and permitted for.”
Karman’s reasoning for wanting this addition is so her daughter who is in EMT school can have her own space.
“This design utilizes the exiting 700 square feet of attic space,” he said, and will also use the existing back stairway to lead to the master bedroom and bathroom.
“Mrs. Karman’s daughter will get the independence she’s hoping for,” Matthew said. The new fourth floor will include the two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the existing bedrooms on the third floor will be turned into a home office/guest bedroom and an art studio.
Matthew said that the other people who live in the building are in support of the project, and the project requires variances for Floor Area Ratio and insufficient side yard.
There wasn’t much discussion on this project amongst committee members or members of the public, and the committee voted to approve the project.
14 MEEHAN ST.
The proposal at 14 Meehan St. is to change the occupancy of the building from a “single-family dwelling with accessory artist studio and one-car garage to office in basement and first floor and two (2) residential dwellings; add roof deck for third-floor unit; three off-street parking spaces,” according to the notice from the meeting.
This project has gone back and forth with the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) and the developer, as the SNA still has outstanding issues with the proposal, particularly with the loss of the artist space.
Attorney Daniel Toscano represented Scott Dabney, the owner of 14 Meehan St., who currently operates his real estate/development office out of the building.
The purpose of the proposal is to make his office officially recognized as an office space within the building, and to keep the existing residential unit and add a second one in the existing artist studio space, neither of which will be affordable units.
Toscano said that the “only zoning variance needed is the use for the second unit,” as another residential unit is a forbidden use.
He said that Dabney “feels it is a more reasonable use than an art studio,” and there are several other residential units in the area, even though it is zoned for local industrial use.
One of the points of contention with the neighborhood was a potential accessible ramp leading up to the building that was proposed to be one foot away from 16 Meehan St. Toscano said at this meeting that they are “able to eliminate the handicapped ramp,” due to an exception where the ramp would not be needed. “16 Meehan should be happy about this,” he said. “It was a big concern.”
Another large portion of the discussion was focused on proposed parking for the building.
Toscano said that the office use requires two parking spaces and one each for the residential units, so four parking spaces are being proposed. He said that some residents have concerns about green space and privacy when it comes to the parking.
He said that permeable materials will be used for the parking area, and the team will work with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) design review team. He said a fence or shrubs will be used for screening and buffering for the abutting neighbors, though no materials have been officially selected.
Toscano also spoke about the proposed roof deck, which he said will be for the exclusive use of the third floor tenants. He said a roof deck can be built on the building as-of-right. The SNA had also expressed concerns with the roof deck, saying it was too large and too close to 16 Meehan St.
Toscano said that the originally proposed roof deck was 500 square feet, eight feet from the roof line, and 17 feet from the property line. It haw since been moved away from 16 Meehan St. and closer to Williams St.
It is now about 400 square feet, 10 feet away from the roof edge, and 19 feet away from the property line and will include a hatch for access.
Patty Yehle, a resident of 11 Meehan St. and a member of the SNA subcommittee on this property said that this has “been zoned as an artist studio space since 1980. I’d like to point out that we’ve already been through this process.” She said the previous owner of this building also proposed to turn the artist space into a residential unit, but the “Stonybrook neighborhood voted against it,” and the “JPNC did not,” she said.
Yehle, who is opposed to this project, said that she and other Stonybrook residents have tried to talk to Dabney about creating an artist live/work space, as “artists need space” in the neighborhood. “He showed very little interest in it,” Yehle said.
Sue Zobel, also on the subcommittee and opposes the change in use, said that “artist space is valued and needed in the area,” and said that she believes Dabney is “pushing the lot for what it can bear.” She said that while she is “glad the ramp has disappeared,” she would still “like some assurance that it’s not going to reappear.”
Karima Ridgley, a resident at 16A Meehan, which directly abuts this building, said two of the proposed parking spots “will face directly into my unit. Even with a privacy fence it will have an impact on what I look out at and the sunlight coming into my unit,” she said.
She said that while she appreciates the addition of some sort of privacy fence, she “loves the character of JP,” and she believes artist spaces are important, so she is in opposition of this proposal as it stands now.
Zobel said that as far as the roof deck goes, it is a “very dense neighborhood,” and “putting more things on the roof doesn’t allow people to interact with each other.”
Toscano said that the team “will work with neighbors” on the design review for the screening, and that the “deck has already been move twice.”
There was also a suggestion for cars to pull backwards into the parking spots to eliminate headlights going into abutters’ windows, and Toscano said he is “not opposed to it,” but he’s also “not sure it’s something that can be enforced.”
JP resident and JPNC member Peg Preble said that it “feels kind of odd” that the goal is to try and remove a handicapped ramp and also that Dabney has never had an artist in that space and is not considering it now. “It’s uncomfortable to me,” she said.
Toscano said that it’s not because Dabney “didn’t want them,” and Yehle also said that “it’s not that we did not want the ramp.” She said that the subcommittee had asked for the ramp to move to a different location, and “it was really vague—the plans kept changing.”
SNA Steering Committee member Paige Sparks said that the “neighbors are not against having accessibility,” but rather the “issue is it was a foot away from the property line and the existence of the ramp kept changing.”
The JPNC voted to approve this proposal with the current plans (which do not include the ramp) and “assurances of screening and buffering at the developer’s expense for the parking area.”
JPNC Chair Dave Baron said he approves of this project because it calls for the addition of another unit of housing that does not change the envelope of the building, and it “seems like a consistent use for the area.” Two committee members voted in opposition of the proposal.
“I believe that this has moved in a much better direction,” committee member Marie Turley said. “I’m concerned about the loss of the artist space but I think there are things to be gained by the community.