When the results of the voting for three development projects were read at Monday night’s Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC) meeting, the council’s new president, Joseph Ruggiero III let out a sigh.
While one of the two projects being pitched was controversial with residents leaning towards rejecting it, the other two should have been slam dunks.
Before the developers began pitching their proposals, Ruggiero addressed his members and discussed the possibility of streamlining the process with smaller projects like building a dormer, adding a roof deck or an additional unit should only require one meeting. Larger projects would still be subjected to a more robust community process.
Ruggiero fears the OHNC has gained the reputation among the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals as a body that rejects everything. Ruggiero feels by rejecting everything the group loses credibility with the ZBA whereas if the group was more balanced in its voting, a ‘no’ vote on a particular project would send a signal to the ZBA that there is clear community opposition or that the developer hasn’t addressed the community’s concerns.
While many at Monday night’s meeting had already made up their mind on 2 Ford St. it was the other two projects, with little impacts to the surrounding community or abutters, that did not sit well with Ruggiero.
The project at 2 Ford St. was voted down 29 to 4. There the developer, MG2, wants to raze the former Nu Trend auto repair shop, combine two lots to create a new 9,417 sq. ft. lot. There MG2 proposed to erect 4-story mixed-use structure containing 27 residential units, including four affordable units), 1,590 sq ft of retail at ground level and 23 garage parking spaces.
There’s been community concerns at past meetings about the size and scope of the project and how it would impact traffic and congestion in Orient Heights Square so it was shaping up to be a ‘no’ vote from jump street.
However, the other two proposals at 45 Gladstone and 70 Wordsworth should have been less controversial.
At 45 Gladstone the developer planned to erect a three-unit residential dwelling with four parking spaces on a vacant lot. The only variance needed was a variance for changing the use from a two-family to a three-family. Abutters at the meeting complained about the building size, how it would block views and it was too close to neighboring homes. The attorney for the project tried to explain that his client could build the exact building he was showing demensiolly as an ‘As Of Right’ project tomorrow, i.e., same massing, height, etc. if it was proposed as a two-family. He tried to explain all he was seeking was variance for use but that fell on deaf ears and members voted 22 to 10 against the project.
The same happened at 70 Wordsworth St. where the proposal is to erect a 5-unit residential dwelling with 4 parking spaces on a vacant lot. The group voted 26 to 8 against the project even though the developer worked with abutters to reduce the number of units, move the building to other side of the lot in order to create a 13 ft. buffer between the proposed building and the single family home next door. The developer also agreed to landscape the backyard and remove or prune trees that were a nuisance to abutters behind the project. Despite all these concessions and some support from abutters the group as a whole still rejected the project.
After the meeting Ruggiero quipped that if the ZBA is going to take the group seriously it has to start finding a middle ground on some development.