Epsilon Partners requested a deferral for their Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) hearing on Tuesday, February 25, regarding the conversion of St. Leonard’s Rectory at 14 N. Bennet St. to residential units. The new hearing has been set for April 28, 2020 at 11:30am.
Attorney Daniel Toscano, representative for Epsilon Partners, cited ongoing concerns from the community as the reasoning behind the deferral. Several North End residents attended the hearing to express their opposition. Many voiced frustration over not being informed in advance that the team expected to defer their hearing.
The opposition for the St. Leonard’s Rectory conversion, which would renovate the property into eight residential units, comes from the developer’s plans to add an additional story, roof deck, and rear balconies onto the building.
North End resident Thomas Schiavoni brought with him a petition with over 140 signatures from parishioners and friends of the St. Leonard Parish. The petition expressed concerns regarding the balconies and courtyard access below the church’s sacristy windows, stating that the proposed renovations would “create significant visual and noise intrusions into the tranquility of an existing sacred space.”
Schiavoni stated he had no issue with converting the rectory into residential units. However, he was concerned with the privacy of those living in the friary, which has eleven windows looking out over the courtyard where the developers hope to erect balconies. He noted that the proposal wants to eliminate a fire escape that currently exists in order to build rear decks onto the building. He also expressed concern over the privacy for the church’s sacristy windows and worried about noise that could disrupt residents and worshipers.
The building sits on top of various underground passages that connect the rectory to the church. Residents have expressed concerns regarding the impact of an additional floor on the structural stability of the building, fearing that this could lead to a building collapse much like what happened to a vacant building at 279 North St. back in June.
The development plans have been opposed by both the North End/Waterfront Residents Association (NEWRA) and North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).