A new 431-car parking lot, on what is currently a school bus yard abutting the interstate, was approved, but not unanimously, by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at City Hall.
Two members of the ZBA voted against the matter.
The Owens family has operated the school bus lot on a lease with the Boston Public Schools for many years, and earlier this year had proposed a large electronic billboard for the location. That plan was scrapped last summer, and a plan to lease the lot for a 431-car parking lot to service the Sanofi company was brought forward. Sanofi is preparing to open a massive headquarters on the other side of the interstate at Cambridge Crossing. Employees there would be able to park at the Charlestown lot, and then take shuttles over to the headquarters.
Ed Owens Jr. told the board they would be operating about 6-10 shuttles to and from the lot Monday through Friday from 6-10 a.m., and then from 3-6 p.m. Each shuttle would hold about 24 people and would drive inbound on Rutherford Avenue and then over the Gilmore Bridge to arrive at Cambridge Crossing. In the evening, the reverse trip would be made.
Attorney Steve Miller said the Owens family plans to provide screening, upgrade the lighting, create a buffer area and have full security.
Two members of the Board felt that the plan for shuttles and the paper plans were too vague, and would need to be refined for their support.
Chair Christine Araujo said she supported the plan, but asked that there be follow-up on the recommendations made as conditions to the approval.
“We need to make sure there is some plan so there is maintenance happening in some way,” she said.
Both elected officials from Charlestown supported the change.
“Shifting bus traffic out of Charlestown while allowing for commercial operations to continue is a win for the neighborhood,” said Councilor Lydia Edwards. “I view this as the beginning of a partnership with the Owens Company.”
Said State Rep. Dan Ryan, “The (Owens family) have been working with the Charlestown community, in particular the neighbors in the vicinity of the parcel in question, to identify beautification opportunities and tangible mitigation for the area. I have not received any comments or opposition to the current proposal. I encourage the owners and operators…to continue their dialogue with the neighbors and neighborhood. With verbal assurances of this work in good faith, I support the proposal…”