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Southie residents come together to fight new development

Written by Terri Ogan

Several residents in Southie, both old and new, have joined in an effort to convey concerns about a condominium development that was recently approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority.  They say the new building would be too close to adjacent buildings, diminishing privacy, and would block the light that currently comes through the vacant parking lot on which it would be built, among other things.

The new project is expected to break ground this spring.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the project, which consists of the construction of a 13,000-square-foot site located at 340 West Second St., in December 2013.  The development would consist of 29 residential units in a four-story building, with 1,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, and 43 off-street parking spaces located within the building’s ground-level garage.

At least two residents in the area have expressed their support of the new building, according to documents from the BRA.

The BRA approved the project following its comprehensive development review, said Melina Schuler, a spokeswoman for the BRA. 

“Building a consensus between the developer and community is the key to making good decisions on developments in the City of Boston,” Schuler said.  “And that’s the core of our process. We work to build consensus within the community and the developer in order to make the best project in the neighborhood.”

Following the board’s approval, the BRA garnered comments on the project from the community, and held a meeting to receive feedback from local stakeholders, Schuler added.

The project was put on hold for several months so the developer, Shamus Holdings LLC., could modify the plans based on community and BRA input.

Richard Glanz, a principal at Shamus Holdings LLC, said he doesn’t know the cost of the project, and won’t know until a design process for the interior of the building has been completed.

Despite changes that were made, residents are still frustrated with how the developer has handled the situation, according to Wolfgang Goetzinger, who lives at 350 West Second Street.  Residents are also unsatisfied with changes the developer has made.

“It’s clear a building should go up there, but it was the attitude of the developer,” Goetzinger said. “Why would you come up with a plan that doesn’t address the concerns that were expressed at the meeting?”

Another issue residents emphasized was that concerning sanitary.  Goetzinger said since the new project would be so close to adjacent buildings, trash would be crammed in between them.

“We’ve worked very hard to satisfy all the constituents and we’ve made very serious efforts to take into account everybody’s concerns,” Glanz said.  “I’m comfortable with where things stand.”

Jon Ramos, an architect who lives in the neighborhood, said he sees the value in maximizing space usage, but said the new design is scaled back from “a complete monstrosity to a regular monstrosity.

“It [the design] was still incredibly dense, with a floor to area ration of nearly three times of what the vacant lot is zoned for,” Ramos said.  “Don’t get me wrong, I am OK with high density living…however as soon as I saw the layout for this proposed building, I saw the problems it would bring.”

Goetzinger, who said he’s concerned about his property losing value, said neighbors in the area have hired a lawyer to oppose the development, and have written a petition that now has 100 signatures of local residents opposing the project as well.

We’re OK with a building going up as long as the plans are modified,” Goetzinger said.  “It’s about [the developer] trying to make the biggest profit in the shortest period of time. We’re prepared to fight this however far we need to go.”

Despite grievances that residents in the area have voiced, the issue has joined neighbors, both new and old to the community.

What’s unique is the number of “new” Southie residents getting engaged in the neighborhood,” Ramos said.  “Some life-long Southie residents have on occasion criticized newer residents for not caring about the community and not getting involved with issues surrounding development. Here is a case where residents new and old have come together, learned that their ideals are not all that different, and have found new allies for ensuring the neighborhood integrity is preserved.”

Schuler said in an email that the project is scheduled for a public hearing in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday March 11 for the board to make a determination on the zoning relief that is requested for the project and includes relief for height and setbacks.

The original hearing planned in February was postponed to March upon request of the project proponent.

Pending the outcome of the hearing the developer will either be able to move forward and pull a building permit, or resubmit the project for BRA and community review.
 

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.

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