Residents’ Association Reports; Withdraws Support for 149 Salem St. / 71 Prince St.

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The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) May meeting began with a series of committee reports. Most notably, the ZLC report led to NEWRA deciding to withdraw their support of the 149 Salem St. / 71 Prince St. project and request a new letter from the Inspectional Services Department.

Watch the full series of reports in the video above or use the timeline below to skip to points of interest.

(00:30) Maria Lanza from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services provided updates from the City. The Mayor recently announced capital improvements which will include $1 million to Christopher Columbus Park, $1.5 million to the North End Branch Library, $200,000 to Cutillo Park, and $3 million for the design of the new North End community center.

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Existing capital improvements in the neighborhood are Langone & Puopolo Parks where construction will begin this summer, the new Eliot School at 585 Commercial Street will be completed this summer and open in September, the Paul Revere Mall / Prado will open June 4, and North Square will be opening this fall.

Events coming up from the Mayor’s Office:

  • Connect Historic Boston ribbon cutting May 23 at 12 p.m. at Blackstone Block.
  • Mayor’s Coffee Hour June 4 at 9:30 a.m. at the Paul Revere Mall.

(4:43) Karen Foley from Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George’s office spoke about the Councilor’s budget priorities. She is focused on making sure there is a nurse in every school. She also organized the first needle take-back day in Boston earlier this year.

(5:36) NEWRA Vice President Dave Goggins announced that the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay is sponsoring a panel on homelessness in Boston on Monday June 17 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Boston Public Library at Copley Square.

(6:45) Victor Brogna, Chair of the NEWRA Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee provided updates on five items:

(7:00) 97 Salem Street: There was a proposal on April 24, 2018 to construct a building on top of the current one-story building. It was strongly objected by neighbors. There are now revised plans and it will likely be on the June agenda.

(8:13) 149 Salem Street / 71 Prince Street: This involves a demolition of the former Prince Postale building and construction of a new, five-story building. NEWRA voted 16-15 in support at the April meeting. A question was raised at that meeting about zoning code that Brogna now believes is correct. He said the height of any building existing as of June 1985 determines the allowed building height on that lot subsequent to total or partial demolition. Brogna suggested this such be flagged on the ISD refusal letter so the Board of Appeals is aware. Inspectional Services Department (ISD) Commissioner Buddy Christopher said it doesn’t need to be flagged because a demolition permit is separate from a building permit.

A NEWRA member raised concerns that they were told by the proponent’s lawyer that it was not a requirement to gain permission to build higher than the current height; that it was essentially a right that property owners can build up to the maximum allowance of 55 feet. He believes the refusal letter was inaccurate, missing this part of the code, and ISD should rescind the letter, issue a new one, and have it come back to the community process. Vice President Goggins, who was chairing the meeting, agreed with Brogna.

It was questioned if NEWRA had been misled and whether the vote may have turned out differently. Though, it was also noted that it was not fair to have this discussion now when it was not on the agenda. A show of hands determined NEWRA will pursue a new ISD refusal letter.

NEWRA Secretary Jenn Crampton suggested the vote may not have been different, but it may have been tabled had NEWRA realized what was missing from the original proposal. Goggins said NEWRA can withdraw their original support of the project pending more information from the Zoning Board and ISD.

(19:52) 48 Salem Street – Chase Bank: The executive committee opted to submit a non-opposed letter so Chase Bank will not have to submit to another vote of the members.

(20:35) Dock Square Garage: NEWRA previously voted to oppose the design. There will be another design committee review meeting. The building has been reduced from an original 160 feet to 124 feet by taking off two levels of parking.

(22:19) Additional Dwelling Units (ADU): The Boston Zoning Commission voted unanimously to accept an amendment permitting owners to add a living unit to a 1, 2 or 3-family owner-occupied building. The additional dwelling could be as small as 150 square feet. This amendment to the zoning law was not brought before the community prior to the vote. Additionally, this would be “as of right”, so creation of an ADU would not need to come before the community. The Department of Neighborhood Development will come to the next NEWRA meeting to explain the amendment. There are 89 buildings in the North End / Waterfront that would qualify.

Previous NEWRA President Mary McGee pointed out that most other downtown neighborhoods were excluded from the amendment. Ford Cavallari pointed out that, on a positive note, the City put adequately strong anti short-term rental language in the ADU bill. On the other hand, he also said that, after the year-long pilot program in Jamaica Plains and East Boston, there was a public meeting at which a presentation inaccurately displayed neighborhoods to be included.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. This is a new low for NEWRA by rescinding a vote from a previous meeting without any membership notice nor even a chance for the proponent to attend. It is unethical for some NEWRA members to manipulate their own membership votes in such a back door manner. I am so glad this is on video. And they wonder why the city and state completely ignore NEWRA.

    • Yes! It’s ridiculous that the meeting agenda had no voting items listed, no representative from the project proponents were present to state their case/answer questions, and the hand vote may have included non-members or members who are not in good standing.

      The icing on the cake is that the Zoning Committee chairman was sitting next to the attorney for the abutter… a coincidence I’m sure!

      This unscheduled vote by a rump membership should itself be rescinded. Just look at how many more people were present at the previous meeting that resulted in a vote to support the project: https://northendwaterfront.com/2019/04/neighborhood-council-supports-new-construction-at-salem-prince-street-corner/

      • It appears they simply rescinded the vote based on misinformation? They didn’t put it to another vote or deny anything. Considering not all the facts were clear this seems prudent. It’s surely annoying for the proponent, but from what I read above it seems like a logical move.

        • This item did not come out of thin air. If the ZLC Chairman wanted to revisit the discussion, it should have been on the agenda as a voting item. NEWRA could have easily invited the proponent to attend, as Victor evidently invited the attorney for the abutter. How else could the attorney know that this project would be discussed, when it wasn’t on the agenda?

          NEWRA also doesn’t vote on individual variances. We vote on the project as a whole. The abutter voiced their concerns regarding the loss of light and air, extensively, during the last meeting. Notwithstanding those concerns, the membership voted to support the project.

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