Straightforward: HVNA Unanimously Approves Brooke Charter School Project

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

During its monthly meeting on Monday, the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) listened to the second presentation for a project at 609-611 Bennington Street associated with the Brooke Charter School and voted to support it. 

Amidst technical difficulties, Attorney Richard Lynds and the Brooke Charter School’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Loring, outlined the proposal, which was described as straightforward.

Loring explained that the properties mentioned above on Bennington Street, which currently houses a residential building, have been acquired, and the rear of those properties abuts the school.

In describing the plan, Loring indicated the idea is to use the building on the acquired properties as an annex.

“We’re not proposing any exterior adjustments to the building on Bennington Street at all,” said Loring.

The only exterior work being contemplated is a walking path in the backyard connecting the Bennington Street properties to the school. Loring also indicated that there would be “minor adjustments” inside to improve ADA access.

“We’ve had some issues with space and just trying to provide ancillary programming space for special education students our multilingual learner students, some ancillary space for our electives like art and dance and things like that,” said Loring.

This plan comes after a previous plan to add an addition to the school’s property, which, according to Loring, fell through due to the effects of COVID.

Furthermore, Loring made it clear that the building would be used for school operations only, and access on the weekends would probably be for cleaning. He indicated that the plan is to use the second floor of the building for offices and the first floor for the aforementioned programming space.

After Loring outlined the proposal, Lynds reviewed the zoning information associated with the project.

Lynds indicated that the project site falls within the East Boston Residential (EBR)-4 subdistrict. This subdistrict is part of the new zoning developed through the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s (BPDA) neighborhood planning initiative PLAN: East Boston.

The zoning recommendations outlined in PLAN: East Boston were adopted by the Boston Zoning Commission last month.

In a change from old zoning, Lynds explained that educational use is now allowed rather than conditional. “So we don’t even require relief for the use,” he said.

According to Lynds, the only relief that will be needed is for parking. “That is the only relief that we require. Because we’re not really changing anything with respect to the building itself — we’re not increasing the height or the footprint — there is no other relief that would be necessary,” he said.

After Lynds outlined the zoning information, the technical difficulties subsided. He then reviewed visuals of the site and plans before the floor was opened to questions.

There was one question that dealt with clarification for a visual that depicted parallel parking spaces.

Ultimately, those in attendance at Monday’s HVNA meeting supported the proposal with a vote of 17-0. The next HVNA meeting is scheduled for June 3rd.

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