In the latest chapter in a long, strange saga, neighbors of Bicon Dental Implants won a small victory.
Calling the matter “unique and a challenge,” Dave Barron, chairman of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee opened a hearing at its Wednesday meeting to consider whether Bicon Dental Implants at 501 Arborway should have its certificate of occupancy revoked.
In a years-long struggle with the company, the Yale Terrace Association and Gerard O’Connor, acting for himself “seek to untangle the confusing, incomplete and inaccurate regulatory history of the property” as its Dec 14, 2015 zoning appeal states.
Recusing himself as a member of the JPNC Zoning Committee and moving to the opposite side of the room, O’Connor (a resident of Yale Terrace, a private way with nine homes on it) said “We are looking for support from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council to require Debbie LLC (the owners of the Bicon building) to put right in the regulatory files a clear and accurate record of what is” happening inside 501 Morton Street (also listed as 123 Morton Street).
“The current uses are dental clinic, clinical laboratory and professional school,” O’Connor said.
There is evidence that the third floor has an Italian restaurant for which Debbie LLC asked and got permission to build a roof pavilion in 2014. O’Connor said the owners had applied for a liquor license but this could not be confirmed.
O’Connor could not say what the certificate of occupancy states outside of a professional school on the second floor only.
“A dental lab,” he said “requires a conditional use permit.”
“As a neighbor Debbie/Bicon has behaved in a consistently bizarre fashion since coming to our neighborhood over 10 years ago,” the complaint states. “We never know what to expect next; unpermitted medical and clinical uses, Italian restaurant. neon signs, parking garages…”
O’Connor said the Yale Terrace Association first contacted the city’s Inspectional Services Department for a ruling on May 24, 2015; but after touring the building ISD staff denied the neighborhood complaint.
“But ISD never said this was a dental school.”
Neighbors: Uses of building don’t match permit
According to the Yale Terrace Association, Debbie LLC has not accurately described the uses of its property. In response to this complaint the city corporation counsel denied the request for zoning relief in a letter dated Nov. 3, 2015.
The Yale Terrace Association is appealing this ruling to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear arguments on March 22.
The long form building permit granted to Debbie LLC on Aug. 5, 2005 when it applied to enlarge and renovate an existing building states the use as “office building and day care.” The original 2-story brick building was built in 1964 for the Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company and its permit states the use as office building.
Debbie LLC applied to build a third floor addition and an energy efficient roof for an estimated $1,022,000. When the enlargement and renovations were completed early in 2006, however, the new Bicon building was far more than just a 3-story brick building: architects Millennium Design faced the building with brick set in Flemish bond and cast stone courses connecting cast stone framed windows. A low Syrian arch door built out in deeply recessed panel brick was built at the Morton Street corner below a tower topped with a cupola.
The tower is 4 stories tall, which was not indicated on the building permit.
The grounds and foundations were lushly and carefully planted in 2011 and included underground piped-in elevator music that plays softly as one walks up Yale Terrace; not the average Forest Hills office building.
On Feb 9. 2009, Debbie LLC applied to change the occupancy to general office use and professional school; an attached letter stated the school would be located on the second floor only.
In a bizarre act of subterfuge, Debbie LLC earned the wrath of the neighborhood when in 2015 it bought through a straw buyer a small woodframe house, 21 Yale Terrace, at the far corner of its back lot, built tight up against the private way and had it demolished. At the time, Bicon told a stunned community that it intended to build a garage and hotel for its conference center and professional school.
It had been owned for 24 years by retired Boston school teacher Berta Berriz, who sold it early in 2015 to Dorothea Sullivan for $600,000. Sullivan immediately “flipped” the property for $1 to Debbie LLC.
Berriz – who thought she was selling it to a family like her own – and Yale Terrace neighbors – were shocked by the deception and Yale Terrace organized to try to save the house from destruction.
“This is beyond duplicitous,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley told the Boston Globe last March. “They actually took the time to find a woman to concoct a story. It’s very weird.”
Despite considerable political action – including beseeching the Landmarks Commission to intervene – the house was razed in late May 2015.
Plans for the garage and hotel have been put on hold, O’Connor said.
“We don’t want to shut down Bicon,” he said. “We’re not here to re-argue 21 Yale Terrace. We’re here to get the right occupancy use in the building jacket.”
Yale Terrace Association has good reason not to trust Debbie LLC; worried about what Debbie LLC will do next, Yale Terrace neighbors want to know what they’re doing now.
“Bicon hasn’t followed any rules since they opened up over 10 years ago,” concluded O’Connor.
No one from Bicon or Debbie LLC was present to state their side of the case.
The JPNC Zoning Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the occupancy permit be revoked for 123 Morton St (501 Arborway).
Neighbors have launched an online petition around the issues mentioned in this story.