ZBA Reverses Landmarks Commission’s Two-Year Moratorium for Maverick Street Project

On Tuesday the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted unanimously 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.

Since last summer, Linear Retail Properties has been trying to develop the former Rapino Funeral Home at 9 Chelsea St. in Maverick Square. Aside from purchasing the former funeral home Linear also purchased two brick bow-front homes at 144-146 Maverick St.

Linear plans to raze the former funeral home, as well as the two bow-fronts on Maverick Street to create a retail development in the square.

Since Linear first pitched its plan, there’s been a grassroots effort by residents to save at least the facades of the two brick buildings and incorporate them in the design of the planned two story retail structure.

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 meant that Linear could not move forward with zoning or permitting for the project until 2019.

At Tuesday’s ZBA hearing Linear Attorney Richard Lynds successfully argued that the pictures provided to the Landmarks Commission 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.

At the ZBA hearing Landmarks Commission Chairwoman Roseanne Foley was asked how many times the commission has issued a two-year moratorium on a project in Boston. Foley said in her three years as chairwoman they had never issued that type of harsh penalty for alleged Article 85 violations.

That answer from Foley was enough for ZBA Chairwoman Christine Araujo to make a motion to remove the moratorium.

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