The Boston Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) voted to deny a fourth story addition earlier this month at 3-5 Quincy Court in the North End. The denial action is very rare for a board that has a record of handing out zoning variances in the vast majority of cases before it. The ZBA vote was tied with Chair Christine Araujo voting against it bringing the vote to 4-3.
Quincy Court is located next to Riccardo’s Restaurant on North Street and near historic North Square. Plans included finishing the basement for more room that two lower units could use and adding living space for the top two units with the added 4th floor. The addition would have brought the building height up 10 feet to 48, keeping the building below the North End height limit of 55 feet. The building occupancy would be for six units.
After intense negotiations with abutters, there was some compromise with the roof decks eliminated and plans for rental units changed to condominiums, in hopes of attracting long-term residents. However, the fourth floor addition and added density in the tight space was the sticking point for the unanimous abutter opposition. Zoning relief was sought from requirements relating to F.A.R. (Floor Area Ratio proposed a 3.84 versus a limit of 3.0), non-conforming basement use, open space/rear yard and off-street parking requirements.
At the September 1st ZBA hearing (see video starting at 2:50:00), architect member Anthony Pisano questioned whether there are actually two means of egress from some units. He noted the ZBA history of denying variances when units do not have sufficient egress.
Chair Araujo repeatedly asked about the variances required with regards to the Freedom Trail Overlay Neighborhood District. Attorney Michael Wiggins represented the opposing abutters and showed an aerial view of how the higher building would be out of scale with others in the North Square area.
Abutters strongly opposed the 3-5 Quincy Court developer raising issues of density, height, light and air. In addition to the relative 3-story scale of the Freedom Trail Overlay Neighborhood District, their property at 187-189 North Street is very close to the vacant building. Several windows would have been blocked by the fourth floor addition. They also showed diagrams of the tiny alley that would be shared as egress for both buildings.
Influencing the vote was opposition from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services based on abutter concerns. Countering ONS, however, was support by both local elected officials, Councilor Sal LaMattina and State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz. Councilor at-large, Michael Flaherty, also supported the developer.
The North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) previously supported the proposal with meeting comments geared toward dealing with an eye sore and avoiding problems such as the recent fire at a vacant building on Stillman Street.
Opposing the plans was the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) who sided with abutters regarding difficult egress through a tight alley, the lack of a comprehensive trash plan and lack of parking. [See Neighborhood Groups Split on Quincy Court Building Addition]
Attorney George Morancy represented the property owner and developers at the ZBA hearing. At the neighborhood meetings, Attorney Daniel Toscano presented the plans on behalf of the proponents. NEWRA executives made a point of thanking ONS at their September meeting for opposing the development and siding with abutters.