JPNC Zoning Committee hears three matters

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee met virtually on April 6, where it heard three matters: one at 71 Peter Parley Rd. to demolish and reconstruct a rear deck, one at 3514 Washington St. for the addition of two residential units on top of an existing one story commercial space, and one at 26 Union Ave. to install a curb cut and driveway for two off-street parking spaces.


       Tom Malone spoke on behalf of the homeowner, and explained that the proposal is to tear down the existing rear deck which he said is in violation of the zoning code and is nearing the end of its life.

       He said the main issue with the current deck is the “intermediate landing that’s eating up most of the backyard.”

       The new deck will feature a relocated staircase to the right, and the deck will be extended parallel with the back for more space. He said this deck is “less in violation than the original deck.”

       The committee voted to approve the deck as presented.


       The proposal at 3514 Washington St. had previously been heard by the committee, but it was not ready to take a vote at that meeting due to some outstanding concerns with the design. Owner Omer Hecht has moved his photography business, CatLABS, into the ground floor retail space at the address and would like to add two additional stories on top for residential units.

       Architect Timothy Burke showed a photo of the building as it is now, and explained that the two existing grates on the front facade windows will be removed. He said that in order to build the two residential units, zoning relief is needed for excessive Floor Area Ratio (FAR), insufficient off-street parking, and the area is zoned for local industrial so the residential units are a forbidden use.

       Since the last time the committee heard the proposal, some changes have been made to the design, such as the color, which has gone from tan to green, and the window color is now proposed to be black. There will be two balconies on the rear, and the existing brick will be left as-is in the rear as well.

       Several committee members and members of the public said they were in favor of the project and the changes to the design, citing that they support the small business and the addition of more housing in the neighborhood.

       Others, like Jennifer Uhrhane, said she still had issues with the design. She said that “I think this could have been a lot more interesting,” and said that “there are very, very slight design changes,” but she said she supports the small business and housing use for the site.

       Zoning Committee Chair Dave Baron reported that the committee received six letters of support of the project and a letter of non-opposition from the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association.

       The Committee voted to approve the project.


       At 26 Union Ave., homeowner Fred Vetterlein proposed a curb cut for two tandem parking spaces in a driveway adjacent to his home. One spot would be for him, and the other for his tenant. The curb cut will remove an off-street parking space.

       Abutter Alex Guriev said that he understands what Vetterlein is proposing and was in support of the project. Some other neighbors also expressed support, but there was a lengthy discussion on this proposal and not everyone agreed that this was a good idea.

       People had concerns about egress issues for occupants of 28 Union, whose only way to exit the property is through the existing driveway area. There were concerns that with two cars there, it would be difficult to maneuver leaving the property. There were also concerns about shoveling the snow and about getting emergency vehicles in should they be needed, but Guriev said that people block access to the current driveway right now so that should not really be an issue.

       Mario Souza, who lives in the unit at 28 Union St., said he doesn’t oppose the proposal.

            After a very long back-and-forth on this issue, a motion was made to approve the proposal with the proviso that Vetterlein will handle snow removal for the entire driveway and ensure it is clear of other obstructions aside from the two cars. Five people voted in favor of the motion, and five voted against, so the motion failed and no further action was taken. It will have to come back before the Committee again to receive a vote.

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