BBAC Approves Parking Meter on Charlesgate East

The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) met virtually on February 10, where there were many items on the agenda for consideration. A notable item was a proposal for the” installation of a multi-space electronic parking meter pay station at existing grass strip between street and sidewalk” on Charlesgate East, according to the application.

A similar proposal was made at the Boston Landmarks Commission for the Fenway earlier this month, which was denied without prejudice as the meters were proposed for a prominent area and Fenway residents said they were not at all involved in the process. These meters are also being installed in other areas of metro Boston as part of a larger project by the DCR.

Jeffrey Harris, a preservation planner with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and Mike Nelson, DCR’s Director of Ranger Services and the project manager for the proposal, were on hand to provide the presentation and address comments and concerns from Commissioners and the public.

Harris said that the DCR is proposing to install a single multi spade parking meter on Charlesgate East between Commonwealth Ave. and Newbury St.

“On this block, parking is only allowed on the east side of Charlesgate East,” Harris said. “There are currently no parking regulations on this block,” he added, but parking on Commonwealth Ave. and Newbury St. is regulated by meters installed by the City of Boston. Charlesgate East is under the jurisdiction of the DCR, so that’s why this proposal is being made by the DCR.

Parking on the east side would be metered from 8am to 8pm, with no time limit for how long someone could pay to park, Harris said.

The proposed meter has a stainless steel housing with a “slanted top” and a solar panel, Harris said. The unit is about five feet tall, one foot wide, and one foot deep, and would be mounted on a two foot square concrete pad that would be installed “directly adjacent on the existing concrete sidewalk,” Harris said. Drivers would use the machine to enter their license plate number and pay for their parking, or it can be done via an app, but the purpose of this type of meter is to eliminate the need to mark car ties, paint pavement, or install a large number of meters in an area.

Harris said that one of these meters can regulate nine parking spaces.

“This will be introducing a new piece of street furniture,” Harris said, adding that he believes it is “in scale” with its surroundings, as there are also two existing utility boxes nearby. He added that the proposed “location also minimizes impact of views onto the parkland for neighbors who are living in the [adjacent] condominium building.”

The existing meters installed by the City of Boston are completely black, while this proposed meter has gray on it as well. Commissioner John Christiansen asked the DCR if they could also use an all black model.

“This gray and black color is the standard color for the proposed manufacturer,” Harris said. Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) also said that “getting a black color on it would improve it a bit.”

Nelson said that “we can, at a cost of $400 per meter, put a color of our choice on them. We can look into that.” He added that the gray and black meters are being installed in other various locations throughout the metro Boston area.

Harris said that the Massachusetts Historical Society has approved this particular model in certain other locations, and two other meters will be installed on Charlesgate East south of Ipswich St., though they have yet to be installed.

“I believe that it should be dark,” Christiansen said, adding that he thinks the other two proposed meters for Charlesgate East should also be black, though those are outside of the BBAC’s purview.

David Sampson agreed with wanting the all black meter in this location, saying he “doesn’t want to mix it up and have a different one from Newbury St.”

Commissioner Genia Demetriades said she does not have a problem with the gray and the black model, adding that it “seems odd to push it to be black if the other ones are going to be installed in the proposed color. I think it’s going to look bad if going down Charlesgate, it’s going to be a different color.”

Commissioner Jerome CooperKing said that “I’ve got a problem with taking away parking for folks in the neighborhood,” and added that this particular area is “good overflow for street cleaning day.” He acknowledged that this issue is not within the Commission’s purview, “but this is something that’s always bothered me. We continually remove parking spaces from the local residents.”

Harris said that “we are not eliminating parking spaces,” but rather just turning them into paid parking, as this is not currently an area for resident permit parking only. “This is available for everyone to park,” he said.

The BBAC voted five to four to approve the proposal as presented, so the project will move forward.

32 BEACON STREET

Another proposal at 32 Beacon Street to replace an existing deck with a new, expanded one, as well as “replace existing headhouse, add screen fencing, add green roof trays,add synthetic turf, modify and add railings, and cover existing skylight with pedestrian-rated glass,” was approved by the Commission with several provisos.

Applicant Peter White said that “our client spends part of her time on this deck,” which looks into an expanded terrace at her neighbor’s unit.

White said that the newly proposed headhouse would be seven feet, six inches tall and was proposed to be constructed of mainly glass, which the Commission said they could not make an exception for, as headhouses are typically clad in standing seam copper. It was also proposed to be expanded to the west where the new deck would expand. 

He also proposed a solid wood screen wall, and there is currently a mockup in place for the screen wall and the headhouse. The proposed synthetic turf will be flush with the deck, he said, and would be located on the south end.

He also went over the details for the green roof trays as well as some of the other aspects of the proposal. 

The Commission had concerns with the screen height, as well as the material for the headhouse.

“We can clad it in copper,” White said, adding that the ceiling could be glass, which would be permissible by the Commission.

The Commission also said they would not approve the solid wood screen wall and suggested instead that a railing and planter boxes be used. There was some back and forth discussion about what type and height of screen walls are approvable in the district, but many Commissioners were against the wood. It was confirmed that up to a 40 inch “opaque” screen wall is allowed, but Commissioner Genia Demetriates said wood has not been permitted in the district in the past.

The Commission ultimately voted to approve the project with the following provisos: that the walls of the headhouse be standing seam copper clad and the headhouse be slanted, though it can have a glass roof and door (and it should be “as low as possible working with staff”), the deck itself has to be within the inner edges of the chimneys, the north and south deck need guard rails, places between two neighbors should have guard rails but planters are allowed, and a 40 inch screen to hide the utilities is allowed so long as it is not made of wood.

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