ZBA Approves Increase in Occupancy; Two-Story Rear Addition

November 29, 2018
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At the Zoning Board of Appeal hearing on Nov. 13, the Board approved a change of occupancy from 39 to 45 residential units at 41-43 Edgerly Road. The project was before the board because it had violations of excessive FAR, insufficient open space, insufficient rear yard setback, insufficient off-street parking, forbidden basement units, and Groundwater Conservation Overlay District applicability.

Attorney Patrick Mahoney said that the applicant is seeking to upgrade some of the interior life safety measures in the building, including the fire protection system, as well as the fire alarms. In addition, he is also looking to add residential dwelling units to the lower level. Mahoney explained that the lower level of the building is at grade. He said there are seven steps from the exterior off the building to get inside the building and then another seven steps after that.

“So the first living level is approximately the second story,” Mahoney said.

He added that the drawings have been updated to meet standard metro unit sizes. They were previously just below the requirement. Mahoney said that the studios range from 450 square feet to 596 square feet. The BPDA recommended 450 square feet as a minimum studio size, Mahoney said.

These units would be rented mostly to professionals and graduate students; not necessarily longer term residents of the city. There would be an eight-foot floor to ceiling height.

“One of the issues with a building like this is all of the plumbing lines are running through,” said ZBA member Anthony Pisani. Mahoney responded by saying that all of the plumbing lines have been raised and most of the area is open.

Christian Simonelli of Boston Groundwater Trust said that they have received the approval letter from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Faisa Sharif from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services said that an abutters’ meeting was held in August and the abutters supported the proposal.

The Board voted to approve the change of occupancy.

At 5 Rutland Square, the project was not as well-liked by abutters. Applicant Joe Holland of Holland Construction proposed to build a new two-story addition off the rear facade of the house. The project has violations of excessive FAR, townhouse/rowhouse extensions into the rear yard, which are conditional, and Groundwater Conservation Overlay District applicability.

Holland said that the proposed use of the addition is deck space off the second floor, as well as an extension of the kitchen on the first floor of the building. Christian Simonelli said he has received the approval letter from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission for this project as well.

Sharif said that she held an “extensive community process” for this project. She said there were concerns at the initial meeting about the proximity of the addition to the property line on both sides, and said that the developers have agreed to set it back to mitigate those concerns. She also said that there were other neighbors who were concerned about construction management. “They have agreed to remain in touch with those neighbors and I do just want to stress the fact that they continue that relationship with them,” Sharif said. City Councilors Kim Janey and Annissa Essaibi George are also in support of this project.

Abutter Gail Ide has lived next door to 5 Rutland Square since 1976. She said she has attended several community meetings prior to the ZBA hearing, and has concerns about the reflection of the structure in the plans. She is worried about the issues of lateral support and bearing on her property.

She said that she has asked for the construction plans that are approved to see how the foundations of the neighbors will be affected as well as how it will be supported laterally away from the building.

“Essentially when you remove an entire wall, the rear wall, which is what is expected in this project as far as I can see, they put at risk the structure of the abutting buildings,” she said.

“I think I think it’s only fair for the abutters that this applicant have as a condition of the variance to provide structural plans and I would like my structural engineer to review them and come to a proper meeting of the minds as to how this is going to transpire,” Ide continued.

Ide also asked an architect to review the plans and speak on her behalf at the hearing. He said that he reached the same conclusion that she had already discussed: “that there’s not really a reflection in the plans for a structural approach to address the fact that they’re removing two stories of the back wall, essentially putting it up on stilts on the abutting walls, and proposing to leave an opening that doesn’t include the back wall at all,” he said.

He said that a structural engineer should be engaged and have a review with the abutting structural engineers on both sides of the building.

Holland said that the structural engineering plan has not yet been done, as they were waiting to get approval for the additional FAR. However, he said a structural engineer has been engaged and “in principle we have a concept that with relieve any concern from any neighbor.” He added that the reviewer at the Inspectional Services Department will not approve the project until the structural plans have a stamp of approval.

“We don’t intend to add any additional load to the party walls,” Holland said. “If anything, we’re going to be removing load from the party walls.”

The Board voted to approve this project with continued BPDA design review.

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