With the Home For Little Wanderers officially out at 161 S. Huntington St., and a city Zoning Board of Appeals OK in its pocket, Boston Residential Group is set to build a $75 million 196-apartment complex at the site.
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council opposed the plan from the start, and after the Nov. 13 ZBA decision there’s nothing more they can do to block the razing and construction.
JPNC member Joseph Wight expressed concern over the zoning process at a Tuesday night meeting. He said he did not feel like the neighborhood council’s voice had been heard.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of community opposition,” he said, listing several Jamaica Plain boards that opposed the project.
The incoming development is going to have 60 or 70 units per acre at a site only zoned for 16, Wight said.
“This leads to a discussion on zoning by variance and not by actual code,” he said.
Wight made it known that it's not development the neighborhood council opposes it’s just the type of development being put in place.
“We’re just saying it’s too expensive, it’s too big and it’s not doing what we think, as representatives of the community, is good for the community,” he said.
Despite this, the ZBA approved the necessary variances thus furthering the neighborhood council’s frustration.
As such, JPNC has drafted an open letter addressed the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Director Peter Meade and Senior Planner Marie Mercurio to express the neighborhood council’s displeasure with the lack of process.
Below is the unedited text of the letter in its entirety:
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council welcomes news that the BRA is developing a planning process for the South Huntington Corridor (officially the "Veterans Administration Hospital Institutional Subdistrict") in Northern JP. Planning for the area is clearly needed. It is currently zoned for institutional usage, but with the turnover of a number of institutions in the area it seems likely that this will change.
With the potential for significant changes or new residents in this area, there are important planning needs to ensure that new developments will fit with the neighborhood in scope and design; that traffic, parking, and public transportation capacity are not overwhelmed; and that new housing is adequately inclusionary.
This planning effort will not work, however, if the BRA approves new developments on all or most of the major sites where turnover is occurring prior to developing a new plan for the area. The BRA and the City have long shunned 'planning by variance.’ We ask that the BRA observe the existing plan for this area until it has completed its new planning process. We are willing to work with the BRA to accomplish this on an expedited timeframe, provided that the process includes adequate community participation.
Finally, Article 55 stipulates that "the Commission shall recognize the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Plan [which includes the plan for the Veterans Administration Hospital Institutional Subdistrict], when adopted by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, following approval by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council." Our priority in approving changes to this plan will be to ensure that the community has adequate opportunity to participate in the planning process, and that community input shapes any final proposals for the area.
Thank you for your consideration, and we would welcome the chance to meet with the planning team to discuss these concerns.
Chair, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council