BRA Seeks Comments on Bennington St. project

Attorney Richard Lynds during last week's BRA meeting regarding the proposed development at 1181-1183 Bennington St. in East Boston.

Attorney Richard Lynds during last week’s BRA meeting regarding
the proposed development at 1181-1183 Bennington St. in East Boston.

As part of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Article 80 review process the BRA hosted a community meeting last Thursday evening regarding the proposal to build a large housing project at 1181-1183 Bennington St.

At the meeting the BRA said the comment period will last until September 7 with public comment periods on the project due by that date.

The Orient Heights Neighborhood Council recently voted 18-0 in favor of the scaled down version of the project being pitched for a contaminated auto-body 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 five stories to four and the developable land has been reduced from 54,000 sq. ft. to 48,000 sq. ft.

At last weeks meeting there was still some concerns over parking and additional traffic that the project may bring to the area. However, attorney for the project, Richard Lynds, said the projects close proximity to public transportation would make it ideal for those without cars seeking residence in Eastie. There will also be one parking space per unit and Lynds argued that those would two or more cars may not want to live at the development based on the parking situation.

“If you are someone that has two or more cars and are concerned about parking this may not be the right fit for you,” he said. “However, if you have one car or no car this would be a perfect fir because the building would be within walking distance to two MBTA train stations.”

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 auto-body shop.

In 2012 East Boston 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 allegedly 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 that owner failed to clean up underground gasoline contamination at his auto business and failing to remove construction and demolition debris that he allegedly 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 allegedly dumped – or allegedly 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 for 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 vitally important flood damage prevention to the surrounding human communities, as alleged in the complaint.

“The site has always been atrocious,” said Mary Carrozza. “Anything that goes there would be a big improvement to what was there.”

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