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Neighbors Stage 11th-Hour Fight Against Warren St. Project

Neighbors are trying to block a proposal that would add two floors to 40 Warren St. They say they weren't notified about the project early on by city or neighborhood leaders.

When Brian Graves bought his Winthrop Street condominium a little more than a year ago, part of the value was the view: from his rooftop deck he can see the North Church, the top of the clock tower and a bit of the USS Constitution. Nice, open and south facing.

But if a proposal to add two floors and a head house to the garage at 40 Warren St. wins final approval from the city next month, Graves' view will be seriously diminished. Several other residents within the vicinity will lose their views as well, and for those on lower floors, there's a good chance the amount of light coming into their units will be diminished.

That's why a group of residents who live near the 40 Warren St. property are getting organized to attend a Neighborhood Council meeting tonight (Tuesday) and a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Dec. 6. They have one objective, says Graves, a spokesman for the group: "to stop this project from happening." Why? To preserve the value of their own properties.

The trouble is the 40 Warren St. project is already well on its way to happening.

40 Warren St. approval so far

Vahid Nickpour of Andover announced plans last fall to "spruce up" the parking garage and office space on Warren Street. He wants to add two floors to the building (bringing it to 67 feet), create street-level commercial space and 14 residential units in the property. You can read more about the .

In Charlestown, the city has an agreement whereby the Neighborhood Council acts as the "impact advisory group" or IAG for all construction projects. Which is to say, the council evaluates whether a proposal like 40 Warren St. adheres to zoning law and looks at the effect a project would have on abutters.

As part of the IAG process, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council hosted a joint meeting with the Boston Redevelopment Authority for 40 Warren St. on Oct. 26. It was advertised in the Patriot-Bridge and neighbors were welcome to attend, ask questions and raise concerns. (Patch never received notification of the meeting.)

According to Mark Rosenshein, who heads the development committee on the Neighborhood Council, 17 people turned out for that meeting and 15 of them were in favor of the project. Following that, as well as other analysis, the Neighborhood Council submitted a letter to the city in support of the 40 Warren St. project.

The BRA has since given a green light to the work and all that stands in the way is a final design review meeting tonight with the Neighborhood Council (at 7 p.m. at the ) and a Dec. 6 vote by the city's Zoning Board.

"I feel really badly for these folks for not showing up at the Oct. 26 meeting," Rosenshein told Patch. "They're not going to feel like their voice is being properly heard."

Rosenshein acknowledged the 40 Warren St. proposal is "close to being a done deal." He didn't anticipate taking another vote on the project at tonight's meeting, but said that if a large group of people in opposition turn out, "it means something. I'm just not sure what yet."

Opposition getting organized

Graves said his group represents about 20 abutters and other neighbors to 40 Warren St. They've put together a petition and a nearby condo association has passed a resolution that will be presented to the Zoning Board and Neighborhood Council.

Neighbors don't feel that they were adequately notified about the project or the review process. Putting a notice in the Patriot-Bridge, Graves said, is not enough.

"It's become clear that notification has been a problem," he said.

He just hopes the Neighborhood Council and Zoning Board will recognize that and give the community time to resolve it.

To get involved

If you're a neighbor interested in the impact on property values or local traffic, you can get involved in the group by contacting Graves at briancgraves@hotmail.com.

You can also attend tonight's meeting at the Knights of Columbus, which starts at 7 p.m. The Zoning Board meeting is at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 6 at 1010 Mass. Ave.

Amanda Watlington November 29, 2011 at 03:12 PM
The CNC should reconsider this project given community opposition. The abutting property owners were not given adequate notice of opportunity to speak; therefore, the CNC has not fulfilled its obligation.
Sean McKenna November 29, 2011 at 04:43 PM
I read about this project a year ago. http://charlestown.patch.com/articles/warren-street-property-could-gain-two-floors-and-storefront-space
Seamus O'Sullivan November 29, 2011 at 05:38 PM
That building and garage are hideous and in my opinion detract greatly from the neighborhood. Instead of adding 2 floors, they should raze the whole thing.
Joseph November 29, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Just curious - Are the neighbors opposing this aware as to what is being proposed for the plot of land diagonally across the street from them? Something tells me they aren't. If Mr. Nickpour is within zoning rights and adheres to the overall architecture of the neighborhood and surrounding buildings, he has every right to build and restore his property. I commend Mr. Nickpour for finally doing something with that block, especially if he’s able to bring in space for retail and restaurants.
Kristi Ceccarossi November 29, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Joseph - are you talking about the green? It seems like the residents are trying to make a case that Mr Nickpour's design doesn't adhere to zoning rights. We'll see what officials say, though. Either way, it seems clear that the neighborhood needs to look at its notification system. (And I'm not just talking about the CNC submitting notices to Patch.) I wonder, if the CNC offered an email update to residents, how many people would sign up?
Henry November 29, 2011 at 10:01 PM
As a direct abutter, I find it outrageous that I was not given mailed notice of the status of this project. I bought a condo with a few of the USS Constitution that will be blocked by this proposed development. The Developer will need variances (4 to be exact) in order to do this project. This proposal is an absolute detriment to the direct abutters. Any proposed variances should be denied.
Henry November 29, 2011 at 10:03 PM
He isn't within zoning rights- he needs variances--If you like the project, maybe he can build it next to you!
Gtree November 30, 2011 at 01:30 AM
It is not enough to simply post in the bridge/patch. The notice should go to the affected parcels. The burdon should not be on people constantly checking for something to happen.
Brian Graves November 30, 2011 at 06:17 AM
Hi Kristi, The 40 Warren Street project does not adhere to current zoning. The project has informed the CNC that they seek 4 variances -- for Minimum Lot Size, Minimum Rear Yard Setback, Height (current zoning is for 35 feet and they want to go up to 62 feet) and Maximum Floor Area. If the CNC offered e-mail notifications, I would sign up for it.
Brian Graves November 30, 2011 at 06:22 AM
Hi Joseph, Mr. Nickpour is not within zoning rights. The project has informed the CNC that they seek 4 variances -- for Minimum Lot Size, Minimum Rear Yard Setback, Height (current zoning is for 35 feet and they want to go up to 62 feet) and Maximum Floor Area. The proposed 3,000 sf of retail space seems to have some restrictions on what could be located at 40 Warren Street. From what was said at the CNC meeting tonight, it doesn't sound like it could be a restaurant or 24-hour store.
Sean McKenna November 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Once a variance is filed for, isn't the City mandated to informed local residents? I know I have gotten a few letters from the City when someone a street over from me filed for a variance. Seems the City is responsible for informing the public? ????
Joseph November 30, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Kristi - Yes, I'm talking about the fenced in green across the street from Ironsides. Is that project no longer in the works? I get notification postcards from the city of proposed projects. They do look like junk mail, so I could easily see how they would be missed. I know my CNC precinct representative doesn’t notify me (you’d figure since the CNC knows before anyone else about these projects, right Mark?, they would be a little more proactive about informing the residents they claim to be looking out for – what a joke). Brian - If he's not within proper zoning, then he shouldn't be able to build beyond that scope. I’m not a zoning expert, but that part of Charlestown seems to have developed over the years to be more “commercial.” This is a personal interpretation after watching them demolish the old buildings across from what was formally known as Olives and on Chelsea Street, reading about the potential proposals when construction began, and all the controversy that surrounded those projects. This is exactly why I choose to buy where I did – where potential or possible development couldn’t happen. It’s unfortunate about your loss of view, but his expansion and building rehabilitation doesn’t surprise me one bit.
Daniel Marcella November 30, 2011 at 04:02 PM
City Square was ALWAYS a commercial area. At one time, there were MANY bars, diners, MORE bars et al. But if the idea is to retain the 'commercial' aspect of it with this project, not sure if it will work. Aren't half of those redeveloped buildings in the Square/Chelsea street STILL unoccupied after all these years? By the way, to those of you who attended last night's meeting, what was the general consensus/tone/outcome?
Henry November 30, 2011 at 05:50 PM
meeting was a shame- while the CNC followed the process (putting appropriate notice in the Bridge), it was clear that the developer lied about individual notices to residents (not required, but something he promised). Bill Galvin made clear he was concerned given the promises made by the developer yet the committee would not remand the issue back to the full CNC. This does not give you confidence in the CNC-- it is really shameful. Bill Galvin, is however, a stand-up guy.
Amanda Watlington December 02, 2011 at 02:01 PM
The area in question is largely residential. Once upon a time, Charlestown had more bars and similar commercial enterprises. This map shows how Charlestown is zoned today. 40 Warren is surrounded by residential low-rise buildings. http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/pdf/maps/citysquare.pdf
chandler bennett December 05, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Amanda, Thank you for sharing that map, it is interesting, but the map that you link to is not the zoning map....that's a map that show what had already been buit there. There is link to the zoning map here: http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/pdf/ZoningCode/Maps/2E_CharlestownND.pdf

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