JPNC Zoning Committee hears concerns about Rockview Street housing proposal

By Adam Swift

A proposal to build two single-family, two-story homes in the front yard of 22 Rockview St. failed to win a recommendation for approval at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s zoning committee.

However, a motion to outright recommend denial of the project to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals also failed to pass muster with the committee.

Zoning Board members noted the opposition of a number of abutters to the project in denying a recommendation for approval from property owner Sven Karlsson. But enough members of the committee said they believed there was an opportunity for Karlsson and his project to work with neighbors to help shape a project that could be a better fit for the neighborhood.

Karlsson, who owns the existing home at 22 Rockview St., updated the zoning committee on changes that were made to the building plan in the wake of a Sept. 20 meeting with neighbors. He presented updated construction mitigation and drainage plans, as well as a change in parking.

Initially, Karlsson and the project team proposed a 22-foot curb cut for entry into the property, which would have resulted in the loss of two on-street parking spots. The revised plan called for an 11-foot curb cut, with four parking spots on the property itself.

Karlsson noted that there were also concerns raised by abutters about the density of the project, but he said that the project would “thoughtfully fit in with the landscape of the street.”

There were several Jamaica Plain residents who spoke in favor of the project, noting that although it was only two units, it would help address the need for housing in the city.

“There is an acute need for the addition of housing in the city,” said  Gergana Nenkov of Chestnut Avenue. “This is a rather modest (development) but one that could make a difference for two families.”

But a number of residents who live closer to the property raised a number of concerns, including potential negative health impacts from potential rock drilling during construction.

Several JPNC members said it was important to listen to the concerns of the abutters and raised their own concerns about the project.

“The idea that we need to build new housing for the sake of housing is wrong,” said Bernie Doherty. “We shouldn’t just push something through because it is housing.”

Doherty said it might be a different situation if the applicant was proposing affordable, rather than market rate housing.

Marie Turley encouraged Karlsson and his design team to continue reaching out to the neighbors to come up with a more amenable plan for the property.

Zoning Committee Chair Dave Baron noted that Karlsson could choose to withdraw the project before a vote was taken on a recommendation.

Karlsson said he was confused by some of the objections that were raised about the project, noting that there was no way to guarantee that there would be no rock drilling for a construction project such as the one that was proposed.

“It seems like people do not want the density, which is understandable, but we are 10 months into the process, and people ask why housing is so expensive in Boston, and this is the reason,” said Karlsson.

A motion to recommend approval of the project failed, as did a motion to recommend denial of the project, so it will go forward to the Boston ZBA without a recommendation from the JPNC zoning committee.

Baron abstained from the vote on recommending approval, and voted against the motion to recommend denial of the special permits for the project. He said he was concerned by objections raised by some of the committee members, noting that the committee did not need to defer to abutters in all cases that come before it. He added that the potential for ledge drilling was not unique to that property.

However, Baron added that the project could benefit from more time with the proponent meeting with neighbors.

In other business, the JPNC zoning committee recommended approval for the building of an outside deck on the second floor of a residence at 470 Center St.

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