Neighbors Hope to Prevent Razing of 1860s Home

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A developer looking to raze a Forest Hills Street house built in the 1860s has met opposition from neighbors, the neighborhood council and a city councilor.

A developer has proposed razing 106 Forest Hills Street.

A developer has proposed knocking down 106 Forest Hills Street to build a nine-unit building. The proposal has met resistance from more than two dozen neighbors, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), the JPNC Zoning Committee and District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley.

The home was written about by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in the 1980s. The house is T-shaped with a slate single roof and "stylistically it is an interesting Italianate-mansard hybrid." It was the home of Boston stockbroker Aaron Weld as of 1868, but the house could date to 1867.

The developer was tentatively scheduled for a Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) hearing on Sept. 11. But the developer/applicant has not submitted documentation, as well as schedule and hold a community meeting before the hearing takes places, said Todd Satter, staff architect for the Boston Landmarks Commission. The applicant may defer their hearing as long as necessary

More than 20 neighbors wrote a letter to the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) issuing their concerns:

"106 Forest Hills is an historic 1867 Empire style, single-family home, once owned by the Weld Family, and is surrounded by an unusual amount of green space, mature pine trees and a remarkable centuries-old beech tree. The property is currently zoned as a 2-unit property in a neighborhood of 2-3-unit properties.

The owner, Alan Sharaf (affiliated with City Realty) and Architect, Embarc, have made no serious investigation into saving any of the original property, a landmark house built in 1867 when Jamaica Plain was dominated by country estates. They have met with abutters, but have not presented alternatives to demolition or information on the history or the home as required by BLC policy.

The developer does not consider renovation possible, primarily because renovation is being compared to a new project with 9 units, far in excess of the existing 2 family zoning, and in contrast to the requirements and intent of the Plan JP/Rox."

"I opposed the original proposal due to the lack of affordability and concerns we heard from neighbors. I have not seen a new proposal yet but look forward to working with all parties if one is presented," said O'Malley via email to Jamaica Plain News.

After two lengthy community meetings the JPNC and its zoning committee denied the zoning appeal, which was communicated to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Mayor's Office and elected officials. The JPNC's decisions are only recommendations and not binding.

At the JPNC meetings people objected to the development due to density, parking, traffic and removal of a very old beech tree that is within the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District, said Dave Baron, an at-large JPNC member via email to Jamaica Plain News. Other people objected to the proposal because at nine units the project just slips under the minimum at which the JPNC and city's inclusionary zoning policies would apply.

A large beech tree at 106 Forest Hills Street

The Boston Landmarks Commission can choose several things under the city's Article 85 Demolition Delay Review Regulations. The commission could issue a demolition delay for up to 90 days if it is determined it's "in the public interest that the building not be demolished and there are feasible alternatives to demolition," said Satter. Among other decisions, the BLC could also not provide a demolition delay

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