Last Tuesday the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted to reverse a previous Boston Landmarks Commission ruling that placed a two-year moratorium on a Maverick Street development project. The ZBA ruled that Landmarks Commission erred in its determination to impose the two-year moratorium on the project under Article 85 of the Boston Zoning Codes.
The ruling was met with disappointment by a group of residents who have been trying to save the two brick bow-front homes at 144-146 Maverick St. that are part of Linear Properties project to develop a commercial building in Maverick Square. Linear has been trying to develop the former Rapino Funeral Home at 9 Chelsea St. in Maverick Square, purchased the two abutting brick bow-front homes and proposed their demolition along with the former funeral home.
A group of residents in the area have been trying to get the buildings landmarked by the Landmarks Commission because they feel they have historic significance in the community.
However, prior to Linear’s proposal the two homes were never included in any preservation report, study or inventory prepared by any federal, state, local governmental agencies or the preservation organizations that have prepared study reports with community input identifying properties worthy of preservation.
“We are very disheartened by the ZBA’s ruling and also Mayor Walsh backtracking on his commitment to support the communities feelings,” said Meg Grady who has been working to try to save the two homes. “As a group of volunteers we have spent countless hours attending meetings, getting legitimate petition signatures, reaching out to those elected to serve us, and doing research. To lose these buildings is heartbreaking and the entire process signals a dangerous precedent for Eastie development and community voices not being heard.”
In September, the Landmarks Commission placed a 90 day demolition delay on the project. The Landmarks Commission regularly grants 90 day demolition delays under Article 85 unless the commission determines there is good reason for the buildings to come down sooner. The purpose of Article 85, according to the Landmark Commission, ‘is to establish a predictable process for reviewing requests to demolish certain buildings in order to establish an appropriate waiting period during which the city and the applicant can propose and consider alternatives to the demolition of a building of historical, architectural, cultural or urban design value to the city’ as well as to ‘provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the issues regarding the demolition of a particular building’.
Then, with the demolition delay set to expire on November 20, Linear was told by the Landmarks Commission that they were in violation of Article 85. At a subsequent hearing in front of the Landmarks Commission Linear was told that the same community members trying to save the two homes had provided the commission with pictures depicting demolition work occurring at 144-146 Maverick St.
While no Landmarks Commission members went out to inspect the two Maverick Street properties they ruled Linear was in violation of Article 85 and slapped the two-year moratorium on the project. This ruling meant that Linear could not move forward with zoning or permitting for the project until 2019. At last week’s ZBA, Linear’s attorney showed board members that Linear was not engaged in demolition and showed asbestos abetment and removal, which is not in violation of Article 85. He also showed ZBA members that some of the pictures provided by the community showed demolition being done on the former Rapino Funeral Home, which was not subjected to the Article 85 demolition delay.
The ZBA’s ruling last week was less about the debate on the historical significance of the homes and more about the harsh penalty dealt out by the Landmarks Commission. Landmarks Commission Chairwoman Roseanne Foley even testified at last week’s ZBA hearing that in her three years as chairwoman they had never issued that type of harsh penalty for alleged Article 85 violations. In fact, a developer in Dorchester who actually demolished a building before his 90 day demolition delay expired wasn’t even hit with a two-year moratorium. Instead the Landmarks Commission forced the developer to educate the surrounding community on Article 85 codes and procedures.
“We have always believed that the allegations resulting in the moratorium were without merit. We now look forward to completing our vision of bringing retail uses such as restaurant, café and fitness to Maverick Square that will serve the needs of the surrounding community,” said Linear in a statement.
Mayor Martin Walsh who supported the community’s efforts to preserve the buildings said he has to allow the process to play out.
“Those two buildings are not on the historic register and there’s going to be an investment made in Maverick Square that quite honestly we haven’t seen in about 30 years, so we’re going to let the process take its course,” Walsh told NECN last Tuesday after the ZBA’s ruling.
Linear Properties proposed development for Maverick Square, which includes the demolition of two brick bow-fronts on Maverick Street that neighbors are trying to save.