Neighborhood Council Gives Firm ‘No’ to 3200 Washington St.

3200 Washington Street as proposed. Looking south.

RODE Architects

3200 Washington Street as proposed. Looking south.

The full Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council on Tuesday voted 11-3 with one abstention to recommend that the city “deny all variances required” to the developers of 3200 Washington St.

City boards, in this case the Zoning Board of Appeals, have the final say and can go against Neighborhood Council recommendations. However, that is rare.

The proposed development has sparked intense discussion about what the mixed-use project. The $23 million housing development would bring 76 residential units in two five-six story buildings, plus retail on the ground floor, to a three-quarter acre corner lot now occupied by a plumbing warehouse, auto repair shop and parking garages.

Reasons for Denial

The motion stated five reasons for denial:  Too high. Too dense. Failure to acquire 52 Montebello Road. Failure to adhere to the 25 percent affordability requirement of the JPNC for transit-oriented developments and failure to engage the community.

The development team for 3200 Washington St. was not at Tuesday’s neighborhood council meeting. Its principals are local developers Justin Iantosca and Dan Mangiacotti.

Their attorney, Joe Hanley, had not responded to an email from Jamaica Plain News asking for comment at the time this item was posted.

Asked by the Jamaica Plain News if the development team would still go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal as scheduled on July 21, despite the  11-3 vote to deny all variances, both Baron and Moloney said they expected the team would.

One member who voted. Sebastian Zapata of Day Street, had been appointed to the Council only 90 minutes earlier.

After listening to the report of the Zoning Committee Chairman Dave Baron, who said the committee made no decision with its 5-5 vote, JPNC Chairman Kevin Moloney said he wanted a decision.

“This building is vastly out of scale and character of the neighborhood,” Moloney said, “and the developer does not have control over 52 Montebello Road.”

‘Not a Good Precedent’

Using the one single word that has defined this development from day one, Moloney said “It is not a good precedent to let a committee set the approval of a project.” He wanted a full council vote.

Baron said, “It is a giant building. It’s three times the allowable floor area ratio.”

He went on to say the reasons for the deadlocked committee vote was “there are a lot of things to like about this new building. Economy Plumbing is a terrible site. But the abutters tell the story. Height especially.”

“Others want 100 percent affordability, ” Baron said, referring to petitioners from Affordable Housing Egleston. “I don’t know how this will work. It’s a form of absolutism.” Baron said the “genuine issue” is control of 52 Montebello Road.

“I voted in favor of denial because we are talking about precedent,” Baron said.

JPNC Housing Committee Chairman Jamey Lionette was also concerned with precedent.

“Usually the Zoning Committee makes the decision. Now we’re going in a different direction,” Lionette said. “A 5-5 vote in essence is denial.”

Lionette said the developers came before the Housing Committee twice.

“There was a lot of opposition,” he said. “The developer asked for a vote of support. We denied it. We never gave a vote. The Council is already on record with the [Boston Redevelopment Authority] to increase the number of affordable units onsite to 25 percent of the total.”

‘This Developer Made No Changes’

Two new concerns were raised during the debate before Tuesday’s vote. JPNC member and Olmsted Street resident Carolyn Royce said, “This developer made no changes. This development is going out the same way it came in. The developers didn’t feel the need to negotiate. The precedent is who gets to speak.”

Reva Levin enlarged on this point by adding another: “Why is a seven-story building being built in Egleston Square? Is it because we ‘re poor? Is it because the developers think we need it because it will make it a better place?”

George Lee of Affordable Housing Egleston read five letters in opposition from residents who lived on Weld Avenue, Chilcott Place, Boylston Street and Dixwell Street. None spoke about height or density but all spoke about what Alvan Shiggs had said just a few minutes earlier, “This is not the future that we want.” In the words of the Weld Avenue resident, “We will be pushed out.”

Lee pointed to Walker Apartments being developed by Urban Edge on Walnut Park, just outside JP. He conceded that while this development is 100 percent affordable it is only at the 65 percent area median income as required by city statute.

“This is way out of what people here can afford, which is closer to the 20 percent to 30 percent income level,” Lee said. “Egleston deserves a developer who can apply for public financing.”

‘We Are Not a Class Struggle Revolutionary Council’

Lionette said, “We are not a class struggle revolutionary council, we are a community council. The council has already required affordability of 25 percent regardless of whether or not they get 52 Montebello Road. Bring those units into the main building.”

He wanted the motion to include  that affordability requirement. This was the first time that the affordability requirement was tied to approval of the development.

Council Memeber Michael Reiskind had a concern that the JPNC did not advertise that at Tuesday’s meeting that a vote would be taken on the development of 3200 Washington St.

Baron replied that the Zoning Committee had told the developers their deadlocked vote would be reported to the full Neighborhood Council.

For all Jamaica Plain News coverage of 3200 Washington St., please visit this special section.

  • kinopio

    Too high?!? The storage building across the street from this lot is higher! Washington Street is a main street near public transportation. This is where density should be. Now it will remain a gross, vastly underused lot instead of desperately needed homes.

  • Jon

    Having been to a number of meetings about this project I have to say there are a lot of mistakes in this article. The picture of the proposed building is an old version and not the new design with a set back from Washington St. (Which is one of the many changes the developers made in response to the community comments). There have been probably a year of meetings with the community and these local developers have taken on a lot of the community comments. You wouldn’t know it from the reporting by Mr. Heath but there is a lot of support from the residents of Jamaica Plain, especially for the height and density. There are a number of 6-7 story buildings throughout JP (including the 7 story building where JPNC zoning meets) and that hasn’t caused the feared precedent for all the buildings being so tall. This is a great development for JP and I hope the city listens to those of us who support it.

  • Sally

    Beyond ridiculous. I honestly hope that city hall understands exactly how well the JPNC represents JP and how seriously they’re taken around here…which is to say not at all.

    • Jason

      I completely agree, and it seems plenty of others do too. If that is the case why do we (as JP residents) allow this crap to continue? Perhaps it’s time we gather some of the opposition and make a counter-group.

      • bminboston

        Or we run for JPNC, and take it over? As far as I know, it is populated by comfortably-housed folks experiencing waves of equity appreciation, who seem to have no sense of urgency about the city’s housing crisis.

        • Sally

          I think there was this same feeling after the entire JPNC had a collective hissy fit about Whole Foods, but honestly I think most people don’t want the aggro of dealing with a fundamentally impotent group that seems more interested in pushing their personal agendas than in any way trying to represent the neighborhood. There is broad community support for this project and have been multiple meetings and opportunities to express concerns and yet here we have a group who don’t seem to have talked to any local business owners or abutters and have decided that they can set their own affordability requirements, while simultaneously complaining about height and density. No practical ideas or solutions–just showboating and magical thinking.

  • OhPatrick

    Apparently JPNC is serving the interest of incumbent property owners rather than the interests of JP’s renting majority. By continuing to vote against new development property values and rents continue to rise.

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