HVNA: One Project Supported, and Another Opposed

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

The Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) held its monthly meeting on Monday in which it heard the second presentations for two projects, one on Wordsworth Street and the other on Bennington Street, and subsequently voted on each, supporting the former and opposing the latter.

The project at 531 Bennington Street, presented by Attorney Richard Lynds, entails demolishing an existing three-unit dwelling on the site and replacing it with a five-unit multi-family residential building standing four stories tall.

According to Lynds, the existing building is not in structurally sound condition. He actually referred to the existing structure as Bennington Street’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.

At last month’s meeting — when this proposal was initially presented — Lynds read from an engineer report that concluded it would be safer to demolish the building and rebuild on its current footprint.

He referred to this report again on Monday, underscoring the need for the existing building, which leans, to be demolished.

“I don’t think there’s really any dispute that taking this building down probably makes the most sense,” said Lynds.

Additionally, Lynds explained that the project was designed to align with zoning recommendations from the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) neighborhood planning initiative, PLAN: East Boston.

“The larger metrics of height, lot coverage, and permeable surface are all met for this proposal,” said Lynds, referring to proposed zoning recommendations.

It should also be noted that with this project, the footprint of the building is not proposed to be changed.

Further, during the presentation, an updated rendering of the proposed building was shown to respond to feedback given at last month’s meeting.

When the presentation was open for discussion, an abutter had several questions about rodent control measures and the impact of demolition.

“I’m going to be very honest because I can see what goes on in the back on a constant basis. The structure as it stands right now has a multitude of mice and rats,” said the abutter.

“I’m also concerned about how you’re going to tear this down. Are my walls going to crack? Is my roof going to be affected,” they later added.

Regarding the rodent concern, Lynds explained that rodent control measures must be in place before a building permit is issued. A member of the presenting group also communicated that baiting has already occurred at the site.

Lynds also spoke about the city inspectors relating to rodent control and said, “If they determine that the issue is broader than what’s typically encountered for demolition, they will require further steps that will be taken before any demolition can commence.”

Concerning the demolition, Lynds described it as “relatively simple,” citing that the structure does not attach to anything on either side. He also indicated that existing site condition surveys would be completed.

Other topics covered during the discussion included parking, stormwater management, the design, and more.

In the end, a majority of HVNA members were not supportive of the project, as a vote of 16 to 10 opposed it.

While the project on Bennington Street was opposed, the proposal at 41 Wordsworth Street received unanimous support from the HVNA in a vote of 23 to 0.

The project on Wordsworth Street, which Attorney Jeff Drago presented, proposes to add a roof deck and egress stairs to an existing three-unit building.

Drago explained that there is one pre-existing zoning violation for the sideyard and another violation for roof structure restriction due to the proposed roof deck.

Moreover, he explained that the roof deck is set more in the middle of the building, and its access is exclusive to the top floor unit.

During the presentation, Drago called the proposal “straightforward” and went through floor plans for the building, which is undergoing renovations.

Finally, he showed some photographs of the ongoing renovations to close out the presentation. In the end, there were no questions from those in attendance regarding the project, and as mentioned, it had overwhelming support. The HVNA is scheduled to meet again on January 8.

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