The proposal to build a large housing project at 1181-1183 Bennington St. has gone under Boston Redevelopment (BRA) review. The review period will last until Monday, September 7 with public comment periods on the project due by that date. Comments can be sent to the the BRA at One City Hall, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02201.
The Orient Heights Neighborhood Council recently voted 18-0 in favor of the scaled down version of the project being pitched for a contanimated autobody at 1181-1183 Bennington St.
In their fourth meeting with the community the developers have been working to find a happy medium that addresses concerns of density, height and parking.
The updated plan calls for 44 units of housing-down from 55 units. The building has been lowered from 5 stories to 4 and the developable land has been reduced from 54,000 sq. ft. to 48,000 sq. ft.
The site has caused much anxiety among East Boston’s environmental activists and the project presents perhaps the best chance to get it cleaned up.
The site on Bennington Street houses the Auto Doctor, whose owner was fined $180,000 by Attorney General Martha Coakley for illegal dumping into the Belle Isle Marsh in 2012.
Developers Michael Patrick and Brian Hosker plan to buy the Auto Doctor at 1181 Bennington St. and an adjacent building at 1183 Bennington St. and combine the two lots into an 18,000 sq. ft. lot.
Attorney for the developers, Richard Lynds, said past issues and issues with contamination of the site would have to be cleaned up before his clients take ownership of the Auto Doctor property.
“Environmental mitigation must occur before my clients take ownership,” said Lynds. “It must meet Department of Environmental Projection standards and it will be a win for the neighborhood considering past concerns.”
Lynds added that converting the site into housing would once and for all remove the grandfathered use of keeping the site an autobody shop.
In 2012, Eastie’s environmental activists that have worked for decades to try and keep the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation clean were fuming after it was revealed that the owner of the Auto Doctor was caught dumping there.
The auto repair shop was sued and later fined by the Attorney General’s office for failing to clean up underground gasoline contamination and not removing construction and demolition debris that was illegally dumped in the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation.
According to the fine handed down by Coakley, the owner failed to clean up underground gasoline contamination at his auto business and failing to remove construction and demolition debris that he dumped – or allowed others to dump – in the Belle Isle Marsh.
The lawsuit also found that the owner violated the state’s hazardous waste law by failing to assess and remediate the gasoline-contaminated soil and groundwater at his property, even after entering into an administrative consent order with the MassDEP to do so in 2006.
The business came under scrutiny prior to April 2010 when he dumped – or allowed others to dump – three large piles of construction and demolition debris from his property in a wetland buffer area of the Belle Isle Marsh. The dumping was in violation of state wetlands and solid waste law.
Belle Isle is a protected reserve managed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The marsh was saved in the early 1980s by then Governor Michael Dukakis after there was a plan by Massport to construct huge containers to store jet fuel. Since that time the Belle Isle Marsh has become an area of ecological importance as Boston’s last remaining salt marsh.
The marsh serves as a nursery f
or fish and shellfish and provides critical habitat to many locally rare salt marsh plants and wildlife, including at least five species of birds state-listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The marshes also provide important flood damage prevention to the surrounding human communities, as alleged in the complaint.
“The site has always been atrocious,” said OHNC member Mary Carrozza. “Anything that goes there would be a big improvement to what was going on there.”