CNC has Concerns on Sullivan Sq Project

June 12, 2018
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The Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) met on Tuesday night, June 5, and heard development plans for Sullivan Square, while also getting to the bottom of a long-standing issue about the rental of the Courageous Sailing pier.

The meeting was also highlighted by a visit from Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who gave an update of her activities – including her fight for liquor licenses to go to new restaurants in Charlestown.

To lead things off, Charlestown’s Gray MacLetchie introduced his 22-unit project on Sullivan Square behind the old Tweed School to the CNC.

The project will see the demolition of a small two-story building behind the Tweed to make way for the five-story, 22-unit building that will contain as many as 22 parking spaces. It would be all condos for sale, with one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. He anticipated the three-bedroom units could fetch as much as $875,000. The building will feature some aspects of the old industrial look with large windows, MacLetchie said, but will have a modern touch with steel cladding and some brick. It will be 55 feet high.

To do this, MacLetchie needs to subdivide the lot to make a 9,000 sq. ft. lot for the new building and an 11,000 sq. ft. lot for the Tweed. He also will need a parking variance (two per unit is required) and a height variance (limit is 35 feet).

The parking would be at-grade on the first level, and MacLetchie said that was important to him.

“The main thing to me is to create a one-to-one parking ratio,” he said. “At some point, with the configuration, it might have to go down. I might have to eliminate a few parking spaces. It will never get below 20, but I’m hoping to get it at 22. It will all work out when we do the structural steel diagrams.”

The parking would include six compact spaces and 16 regular spaces with one handicap space.

Parking was a major issue on the mind of many on the CNC.

“People are going to be allowed to park in the building, but will decide it costs too much and they’ll park on the street,” said Bill Galvin. “One car doesn’t make a difference, but collectively I’ve seen parking spaces get worse and worse and worse. I don’t think you have any intention of building 22 parking spaces.”

MacLetchie shot back, “That’s not true. The parking ratio is always one of the major things for me. The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) would like me to have no parking in that location since it’s a Transit Oriented Development. The Graphic that is next to me was approved with 0.67 spaces per unit.”

Galvin said the problem is that many in City Hall believe parking isn’t necessary, but the neighborhoods know that is false.

“You have some people in positions of power in City Hall who believe no one will own a car in 10 years and I think that’s wishful thinking,” he said. “I’ll support you at 22 units with 22 parking spaces, but if it’s anything below that I won’t support you.”

Barbara Babin asked him to tie the units to the parking spaces. She said she doesn’t support the idea of building parking that is separate from the units, as too many people go cheap and won’t buy the parking. Instead, they try to save money by parking on the street.

MacLetchie said he was well aware of that, and he is experimenting with many ideas on the parking spaces, including tying them into the condo units.

Tera Lally, as well as many others, were concerned about the timing of the construction, which will be this year and next year – coinciding with the other major construction efforts like the casino.

“I only request that you stay on top of what is going on in all of the Sullivan Square area and not just what is happening on your building,” she said.

There is no date yet at the Zoning Board for MacLetchie, who lives and works in Charlestown and has many years of development experience here.

  • Courageous Sailing Pier

Anyone who has spent five minutes at a CNC meeting this year knows that the Courageous Sailing pier rental program and agreement has gotten under the skin of many on the CNC, including Chair Tom Cunha.

On Tuesday, Courageous’s Dave DiLorenzo appeared and Cunha said the CNC would like to take another look at the pier rental agreement so that the 20 dates available each summer are more equitably distributed.

“I think in April or May of next year, I think we’re going to want to open the agreement again,” he said. “I think we’ll write a letter to the BPDA and ask that we all sit down. I think it’s time for a little more reorganization. What’s happened seems to be a little off focus. I’d rather see it focus on the local fundraising that our community needs.”

Courageous is a tenant of the BPDA and runs a sailing program for adults and kids and the disabled. However, as part of their lease, they are allowed to rent out the pier. Under a 2013 agreement hammed out by the late Dave Whelan, they can have 10 events in the day and 10 events at night on Pier 4. One of the events is set aside for the Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard, which has used the spot once and has deferred it to the Charlestown YMCA the last two years.

Many in the community, however, feel that with City land in the Town, they should have more access. That’s been the case for quite some time and the CNC has sought to address it

“I don’t think it’s used for the 100 percent of the non-profits in the community,” he said.

DiLorenzo, who was challenged on their fundraising numbers – which include raising $300,000 last year, said they are not some great big non-profit. They raise money and charge for use of the pier to accommodate Charlestown kids in their outreach sailing program.

“We have no endowment,” he said. “We are a paycheck to paycheck organization every year and we have 130 staff members who we have to pay…We’re not spending money on anything we don’t have to. The $5,000 (from the CNC/Spaulding Fund) we got made a difference and allowed us to open our program to more kids.”

  • City Councilor Ayanna Pressley

Councilor Ayanna Pressley made a 20-minute presentation to the Council about her efforts citywide in addressing trauma and equity – and also included in that her drive to get more liquor licenses, particularly for Charlestown.

She said if her Home Rule Petition to the State Legislature passes, it would mean Charlestown would reap 15 Town-only licenses over a three-year period. If no one claims the licenses, then they would be rolled out the next year.

She indicated that the licenses couldn’t be released without the consent of the community and organizations like the CNC.

She said having more liquor licenses available to Charlestown restaurateurs would help to create more dining options here, and most importantly, more jobs for local residents.

  • Medford Street Dog Run all Done?

Chair Tom Cunha had a major report on bad behavior by dogs in the parks and on the fields, but dropped one bomb in telling the CNC that the Schrafft’s ownership is considering shutting down the popular dog run on Medford Street.

The dog run is fenced in and is part of Schrafft’s property, but it is unused so they have let the community access it for years.

“I don’t want it to come as a shock, but they’ve told me they are considering shutting it down,” he said. “The grass has been killed, the bushes are dying and the landscapers won’t work there. That’s what they’ve told me so people better be ready because a lot of people use it.”

  • Why not the Oilies?

There’s been a lot of talk about MassPort and City-owned land lately, and some of that conversation revolves around finding playing fields for the growing youth sports leagues.

Chair Tom Cunha said some of the MassPort land could be invaluable for new sports fields, but the fight will be lengthy to get an inch away from MassPort.

In the interim, he said why not use the Oilies – which are the fields under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge officially called Barry Field.

Cunha said all of his Little League games were down there when he was a kid and the field should be used more often.

Mary Boucher of Charlestown Girls Softball said they use the field, and there is also an adult softball league that uses it frequently. Meanwhile, one member said many don’t like to haul the equipment over there.

“They should get one of those containers like everyone else and put it at the Oilies,” said Cunha. “That’s all. The fact is most people don’t want to go over to that corner of Town and that’s not right.”