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.