The fear and panic of overdevelopment among East Boston’s older residents, and increasingly more and more newcomers, has become involved in so much red tape that a simple subdivision of a lot takes five community meetings, abutters meetings and a vote by the community.
On Monday night the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) voted 17 to 9 against a subdivision at 55-57 Chaucer Street, a proposal that two years ago would have never even made it on a community group’s agenda.
However, these days it seems everyone is suspicious of a property owner’s ‘intent’ and not necessarily the actual agenda item being voted on. So things like changing occupancy from a two to three family or a simple subdivision are ending up on community meeting agendas more frequently so the community can weigh in on what ‘may’ happen to a given property in the future.
Since October of last year, the owner of 55-57 Chaucer St., R. Sferrazza, has made his proposal to subdivide his land that includes a one-family and two-family home. Through his attorney, George Morancy, Sferrazza has pitched the proposals to both HVNA and the Orient Heights Neighborhood Association (OHNC) no less than five times. The owner and his attorney have held abutters meetings with neighbors to clearly explain their intent.
At Monday’s meeting Sferrazza again reiterated that he wants to subdivide the land because he has family who is moving back from California and will occupy the one family home and two sons who will occupy the apartments in the two family. He plans to do no work on the two properties and his attorney has stated numerous times that the subdivision would allow Sferrazza to place two separate lots in a trust for his sons.
However, at the HVNA meeting, much like the previous OHNC meeting on the same issue, members expressed their ‘suspicions’ that Sferrazza might be readying his lot for some massive sell off to the highest bidder who would in return try to stuff a dozen or so condos down the neighborhood’s throat.
To no avail Morancy tried to explain that the subdivision would actually benefit the community because it would turn one lot that could be sold off and developed into a multi-unit structure “as of right’ into two non-conforming lots that would need community approval and zoning relief. His explanation of this very important factor fell on deaf ears at both HVNA and OHNC meetings.
The meeting agenda item was discussed ad nauseam for over a half hour Monday night with members putting forth every conspiracy theory possible about what Sferrazza could do or would do with a subdivision and accused him of hiding his true intent instead of focusing on the fact a neighbor just wanted to subdivide his property for his sons.
Following the meeting Morancy and Sferrazza could only shake their heads in disbelief that something that only a few years ago would not even be on a community group’s radar is now fodder for some looking to squash anything that might lead to development.