BBAC Denies New Bike Racks

As biking becomes a bigger source of transportation across the City of Boston, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) is trying to make it a little easier for bicyclers to store their bikes while out and about.

But at a Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) hearing on Wednesday, April 11, the Commission denied without prejudice the installation and repair of 20 bike racks across the neighborhood. The estimated cost of installing the bike racks is $7,000.

The Commission asked that the BTD return with a master plan on where they will like to install new bike racks now and in the future.

The application included installing bike racks, in the lollipop style (one metal rod with a circle loop) both along commercial streets and residential streets in the Back Bay.

The Commissioners stated concerns with placing bike racks on residential streets, where none have been installed before. They cited that residents on that street should either store their bikes in the alleyway behind their house or in their apartment.

In addition, on Beacon Street a new protected bike lane has just been installed. The Commission asked that if they do install bike racks that they at least be on the same side as the bicycle lane and not on the opposite side, which the application asked for.

John Monacelli of the BTD Boston Bikes program said that the Beacon and Marlborough streets bike racks are being placed there after noticing bikes locked to metal rod fences, which are part of the historic fabric of the Back Bay.

“On Marlborough Street I noticed the fences were cluttered with bikes chained to the private property,” said Monacelli.

Commissioner Robert Weintraub said, “People park their bikes on ornamental fences all the time. If people park bikes on my railing I just cut it off. It causes damage and I hate it.”

Monacelli said that he had the right to cut off the bikes but hoped the bike racks would also help the situation.

On commercial streets, Commissioners worried that the bike racks would add more clutter to the already busy sidewalks.

“We’ve reduced street clutter by taking away the parking meters,” said Vice-Chair Iphigenia Demetriades. “If we add a little that will have good value – why not add them?”

Other commissioners worried that there’s already a lot of clutter with street trees, sandwich boards, utility poles and lights. They stated concerns that there won’t be enough room to pass either by foot or if someone was trying to get out a car in a few of the locations.

Monacelli said that all the bike racks were strategically located to make sure it was ADA compliant and had enough space to pass.

There were several letters submitted against the installation of the bike racks.

The BBAC asked that the applicant come back with a master plan and also to work with a joint sub-committee between the architectural commission and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

BBAC denies removal of tree at Chilton Club

The Chilton Club was denied the application to remove the existing Katsura tree and replace it with two Kousa Dogwood trees.

“We don’t typically remove trees without disease or that is causing significant damage,” said Commissioner Jerome CooperKing.

Chair Kathleen Connor agreed and said, “It’s preventative and I understand that but, it’s precedent setting.”

A certified arborist determined that the Katsura tree growing in front of 152 Commonwealth Ave. has no signs of insect and or disease infestation, and the tree appears to be in good health.

The proximity of the tree to the building is not ideal because the species has the potential to grow to 60 feet in height with a spread of 30 feet or more. The arborist noted that the space restriction would eventually become a more acute problem, for the building, the tree or both.

From a resource management perspective, the arborists advised removal and replacement with a new tree of a more suitable size and location away from the building.

A representative from the Chilton Club said they had plans to renovate the front garden wells to make the two identical in front. The Katsura tree not only has caused damage to the sidewalk with its roots, but it limits any new plantings in the garden.

The Chilton Club met with both the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and the Back Bay Garden Club who both opposed the removal of the tree.

The BBAC board unanimously denied the removal of the tree.

BBAC denies replacement windows

The BBAC denied the replacement of three lower-level two-over-two historic wood windows in-kind at the front façade of 396 Beacon St. The Commission asked that the owner repair the windows because they are original to the building.

The current owner of the unit moved to Boston in 2013 and repaired the windows on the inside but the storm windows have continued to cause significant problems.

During the winter months a large draft goes through the windows, sometimes making it impossible to live in.

The owner said he already paid a significant amount of money to restore the historic windows and doesn’t believe he can afford to also restore the storm windows. The owner has looked at other options such as placing storm windows on the inside but that too was costly.

The owner also argued that steel bars block the windows from being seen from the sidewalk.

Joe Cornish, the preservation planner for the city, argued that in all the historic districts, if the window is original and able to be repaired, the rules and regulations state that they must be restored or repaired and not replaced in kind. The goal is to preserve the original fabric of the historic districts.

Cornish added that even if the windows were replaced they would need to be replaced again in 20 years. He argued that restoring the windows would last a lot longer. In addition, if this was passed he said, it would create a very bad precedent.

“At some point accommodations need to be made,” said Commissioner Lex Stevens, who voted against the denial.

BBAC voted to deny replacement and asked staff to point the owner to window restoration specialists.

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