Edwards May Appeal Zoning Commission Decision on Height at Hood Park Project

November 17, 2018
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After a 7-1 vote by the Zoning Commission last Wednesday, Nov. 7, to approve a text amendment allowing taller buildings on a portion of Hood Park, this week City Councilor Lydia Edwards said she might appeal the decision.

Edwards, allying with more than 600 people that signed a petition against the zoning change, said she didn’t feel like the battle was over. Edwards and several residents enjoyed a win earlier this year at the Zoning Commission when an amendment that would have implemented no height restrictions was tabled. The current amendment had a height restriction of 270 feet.

“We won a battle by preventing them from eliminating all height restriction and people had a reasonable height restriction that was no bigger than the Schrafft’s Center at 230 feet,” she said. “So we came up with solutions that were double the height. I just don’t think it’s over. We are researching the appeal process and next steps.”

For Hood Park, the decision provides clarity for them to continue holding meetings with the community regarding their amended Master Plan, which currently includes buildings up to 295 feet.

“The updated zoning recommended by the Boston Planning and Development Agency and approved by the Zoning Commission enhances the city’s strategic growth objectives and provides Hood Park with the opportunity to continue the dialogue with the community about a revised masterplan and new office building,” said Chris Kaneb, owner of Hood Park. “We have been working extensively with the community to turn our vision of a dynamic mixed-use, transit-oriented Hood Park neighborhood into reality, and we look forward to continuing to engage with Charlestown throughout the formal process.”

Ann Kelleher, who has opposed the Hood Development in meetings, said she is concerned about the increased development and how it might hurt the health of the Town’s residents.

She said she and others helped to gather signatures to take to the Zoning Commission meeting last week.

“The wakeup call on this came for me in 2017 when I was in gridlock and an ambulance was trying to get through and no one was going anywhere,” she said. “We gathered 650 signatures on this petition. People were really excited to sign it. It was across the spectrum, Townies, new people, families and Boomers. We got them quickly too. It’s the inattention and silence from City Hall.”

Many who are opposed to the height amendment said they felt like the City wasn’t listening to them. Over the summer, the BPDA had several zoning open houses where discussion was had about the height and density of zoning for the area across Rutherford Avenue. Several recommendations were made, but in the end, many neighbors said they felt no one listened – as the heights suggested by the BPDA came at double the current 115 foot limits.

Irene Kershaw, who is a pediatric occupational therapist, said she has been concerned about asthma, and has been citing a recent study done by Tufts regarding areas near Charlestown and on the I-93 corridor.

“We are experiencing substantial transportation and traffic gridlock due to development pressures,  which is ultimately effecting the air we all breathe,” she said. “The City is putting its head down and plowing ahead with poorly thought out development, while ignoring all the above components that make a good, safe environment for us all to live in…Parents in Charlestown should be concerned about what type of air their children are breathing and not an outdoor play space riddled with poor air quality particulate matter from Rutherford Avenue and I-93.”

The height amendment not only affected Hood Park, but also portions of the bus yard, Casella Waste, Costa Fruit and Boston Sand & Gravel property under the highway.

Hood Park has filed its revised Master Plan with the BPDA and continues to conduct meetings with the general public and the Impact Advisory Group (IAG). There are no meetings on the plan currently scheduled.