JPNC discusses Poor Clare Sisters’ monastery; committee updates

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on March 22, where the main topic of discussion was a letter to be send regarding the situation with the Poor Clare Sisters’ monastery located at 920 Centre St.

Marvin Mathelier of the JPNC’s Housing & Development Committee reported that the monastery was the “biggest topic of discussion” at the committee’s March meeting. The committee discussed sending a letter requesting that a community process be held regarding the building.

The Poor Clare Sisters have filed a demolition delay review application with the Boston Landmarks Commission, citing their religious beliefs as the reason why the building needs to be demolished. The application states that the property will be bought by Holland Properties, which wants to build 26 townhouses on the lot. 

There was some disagreement among council members about what the letter should state.

“The letter sounds awfully like we were asking them not to demolish the building,” Omer Hecht said. “I wholly understand the reason why they want to demolish it. What happens later is a different conversation.”

Dave Baron said that “I understand that the Poor Clares have said that their religious freedom gives them the right to do whatever they want to do with their property.” He added, however, that the “zoning code applies equally to everybody” as does the public process that surrounds development projects in the city. 

“We’re talking about advocating for a robust community process around what happens with this building,” he said.

Bernie Doherty agreed that he doesn’t “believe the nuns or anybody else has the right to override the zoning laws…” He also agreed that a public process is needed. 

Mathelier said that a community meeting around this is scheduled for April. Michael Reiskind said that the “26 townhouses will have a full community process as far as I can tell.”

Further discussion included the fact that some people feel the existing building could be repurposed for housing rather than be knocked down for something else to be built on the lot.

Ultimately, the JPNC did vote to move forward with the letter drafted by the committee.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMITTEE

Public Service Committee Chair Michael Reiskind discussed a proposal by Little Cocoa Bean, a baby food company that wants to open a location at 114 South St.—the space formerly occupied by Esperanza Travel & Tours. 

Reiskind described Little Cocoa Bean as an “innovative business” that sells food for babies and toddlers. He also said that they want to open a cafe for parents to be able to feed their children on site while they enjoy coffee or tea.

Little Cocoa Bean is requesting a Common Victualler License as well as a take out license with proposed hours of operation from 7am-7pm. 

“Everybody was in favor,” Reiskind said, adding that “the big question was parking and parking for the strollers.”

The JPNC voted to approve this request.

The JPNC also voted to approve initiatives for the committee for the next two years, which include things like continuing the subcommittee on police procedures and discussing whether space savers should be banned in the neighborhood.

ZONING COMMITTEE

Zoning Committee Chair Dave Baron reported that only one matter was heard—a request at 29 St. John St. to add a two-story addition to the existing single family home. He said that the home is owner-occupied, and the owners want to expand the kitchen and install a mudroom as well as a rear entrance into the kitchen.

He said that neighbors who attended the meeting were not opposed, but some had questions about the proposal. No change in occupancy or use of the building is proposed.

The JPNC voted to approve the proposal.

PARKS+ COMMITTEE

The Parks+ Committee has been revived, and met again for the first time on March 14. Trevor Wissink-Adams reported that the group “discussed a few items but didn’t have any votes to bring to the council.” He said they discussed the Shattuck Campus as well as the dog park issue in JP and neighborhood trash pickup. The next meeting will be on April 11.

NEW MEMBERS AND NEW CHAIR

Paige Sparks, who also currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association, nominated herself to fill the vacancy in Area B, where she resides, and was voted in by the Council. 

JPNC Chair Samantha Montaño announced that she would be stepping down as chair to run for State Rep. so Vice Chair Bernie Doherty acted as chair for this meeting.

Omer Hecht nominated himself for the position, Micah Sachs nominated Will Cohen for the position, and Gert Thorn nominated Bernie Doherty. Each spoke about why they would be a good fit for the role, but Doherty ultimately withdrew his nomination, saying he would prefer to remain the vice chair. 

Will Cohen won the vote and will be taking over as the new JPNC Chair moving forward.

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