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Council: No Recommendation on 40 Warren

Tie vote leads council to neither favor nor oppose the proposed building expansion.

After a sometimes-contentious night that included raised voices, a malfunctioning projector and an egg timer, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council arrived at the conclusion Thursday that it will make no recommendation on the proposed .

The final vote came down to six council members in favor of the project and six members opposed. Several other members sent their opinions in written form, but the council’s bylaws, according to development committee chairman Mark Rosenshein, only allow the votes of those members present to be counted.

No Decision

In lieu of making a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals, said Neighborhood Council Chairman Tom Cunha, the council will draft a letter describing Thursday's meeting and explaining that the council came to no conclusion. The ZBA will next hear the project on Jan. 24.

By Cunha’s estimate, 114 interested parties attended the meeting, some of which he had strong words for.

“You Got Another Shot”

Some of those who complained at earlier occasions that they were not properly informed of relevant meetings. Cunha called that a “legitimate beef,” and said that the council worked hard to give the developer and those opposed another chance to come to an agreement.

“You got another shot,” Cunha said, “and you made no deal. You made no change.”

The plans that building owner Vahid Nickpour presented at Thursday’s meeting from its last public presentation. Plans now call for 11 units instead of 14 and larger setbacks of the additional structure from neighboring buildings.

Reduction Not Enough

The project would still stand 23 feet higher than zoning allows, and Brian Graves, an unofficial spokesman for those opposed to the project, said the reduced scale wasn’t enough.

“They could improve the space without going outside the current zoning,” Graves said.

He and others cited a loss of light, view and airflow in addition to parking concerns—all of which could impact their property values, they said—as their reasons for opposing the project.

By Councilman Bill Galvin’s count, 24 community members expressed Graves’ opinion while 17 supported the project.

Several of those in support said they wanted to see the project happen because it would create local union work and because Nickpour had made strong efforts to aid Charlestown’s elderly population.

PGRD January 06, 2012 at 07:03 PM
The project will create jobs, but these will be short-term only. It is quite clear that quite a large number of residents will experience severe, negative long-term quality of life impact from the project and there appears to be no pressing, essential, unavoidable reason why the variance should be approved.
Hollie January 06, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Surely a residential and retail facility would be better for ones property values than the existing parking garage. A thriving community needs to grow and with that growth provide its residents with varied retail and service entities.
Hollie January 06, 2012 at 07:07 PM
It should also be noted that while the article notes that the majority of those speaking out last night were opposed to the project, in such circumstances it is commonly those in opposition to a project rather than those who are in support of it that attend and speak out. Certainly the viewpoints extend beyond those that attended last night's forum.
Joseph January 06, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Obviously the CNC doesn't abide by Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure. They came up with a tie. What a joke. Written votes not allowed? I wonder if they ever amended their by-laws so they're able to make more than one public announcement outside of posting in the Bridge? What a bunch of talking heads that love to hear their own voice. They are elected to protect and keep us informed? Check out their site - their monthly minutes still haven't been updated since September. Nothing about Rutherford or 40 Warren. ZERO communication with the residents of Charlestown. I do hope this project goes through though. The same people complaining now are going to lose their precious views once the undeveloped plot across the street is developed anyways. Tick tock tick tock....
Brian Graves January 07, 2012 at 12:55 AM
The project isn't proposing the elimination of the garage. It proposes adding 11 condos/apartments, 2 bed, 1-2 baths, 1000+sf., on top of the existing office space and garage, adding an additional 21 feet to the building and exceeding zoning by the same amount. The retail space proposed is restricted to the type used for a real-estate office, dry cleaners or lawyer's office, so says the developer. There are already 3 other dry cleaners within a block where the retail space is proposed. The developer has said it cannot be a 7/11-type convenience store or sub shop. Currently the Segway tour company occupies the small corner of retail that exists in the building today. The parking garage serves to relieve some of the parking issues in this part of town by providing some off-street parking to local residents. To my knowledge, no one has objected to the current use of the building. Parking is an issue in this area and will be compounded further by the curb cuts proposed by the Park Street project adjacent to 40 Warren. They will take away another 5-6 street parking spots so that residents of that new condo complex have access to their development. No one that I know is opposed to growth, we desire growth that is fair, reasonable and takes into account the long-term quality of life of the neighbors. One CNC council members mentioned last night that there are 30% more parking permits issued to Charlestown residents than spaces exist in town. That is not sustainable.
Dan January 07, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Building up or out is not the best long term approach for the community at large. Warren/Main St area is already a dense & congested area of town. It does not need more build out. Remember the city sees building as growth which it think it needs to show in the prospects it hands out to large companies thinking of moving here. While I can't fault them for shining the prospects as best as they can, it is not the best solution for a mature city as Boston (C-Town) is. If we do encourage more development we need to have a better long term parking plan. I for one would love to see the community collage parking lot expanded into a mix use building/garage with the rear of the building the garage to serve the collage and the community. That way the city can gets some points on the rebuilding or the area and we all win with more parking thats near us (think snow storm or even future growth). Another way to solve this is to force any building expansion to have off street parking for 1.5 times (maybe 2 is needed today) the number of units in the building plus 2 spaces for the curb cuts. We once mandated this for some reason it has fallen off the table as a requirement on larger projects like this one.
Jimmy G. January 14, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I am confused dosent the city and the neighborhood council have a process that was followed to the "T" by the developer? I mean he went above and beyond putting flyers on something like 400 homes? And what does he get for doing that What 20 people show up so he holds another meeting Jan 2nd and 1 person shows up...i mean really what is he suppose to do? I guess he could hold secret meetings and decide what to do....oh wait thats what the abutters did decided to meet on there on not show up for the public meetings then scream and yell hey we were not informed about this....we need a chance to have our say...ok even though u already where given enough notice and a chance to respond...you can have another chance...og wait u dont wont to work it out u just want it ur way....
Brian Graves January 14, 2012 at 05:27 PM
The process wasn't followed. Notification from the city did not occur. I never recieved a notice from the city. While the developer was asked to notify neighbors ahead of the Oct 26, 2011 "final" vote, no fliers were put in or near my mailbox. Other abutters would tell you the same thing. The developer was asked if he did it when no one showed for that meeting, they said they did it. We didn't show up because the only notice that was made was in the Patriot-Bridge and no one saw it. It is not sufficient notice. In Nov 2011 when we learned about the process that was going on, many of us went to every meeting - CPS, CNC, BRA, ZBA. Secret meetings? Just as the builder meets with his team to decide how they are going to respond to concerns and objections, I have helped to organize neighbors to centralize questions for the builder to support efficient communications. I have invited CPS and CNC members to these meetings to take their input. We have more than 30 active participants as well as other occasional participants. A petition was circulated and signed by more than 120 Charlestown residents that oppose the project. The bottom line is that now abutters, neighbors and other concerned residents know about the process, we are participating in the process.
Dan January 14, 2012 at 08:14 PM
John, as Brian explains in his remark the neighbors where not properly notified. As of late there seems to be a prevalent failure of communication from the CNC directly or indirectly, when they have placed the burden on others to make the needed effort to communicate up coming meetings. The CNC needs to do a better job of validating ALL of the abutters and 2nd abutters have been informed of projects like this one. Placing the responsibility on the developer without a means to validate is just asking for problems. The best way I can think of would be to have a letter sent to each of the abutters with a return envelope sent back to the CNC by the developer. Within the letter would be questions on how to best communicate with the abutter for followup meetings besides what is happening. If the letter was not returned a second should follow warning the abutter failure to respond may effect them negatively. If that fails to get a reply someone should make the effort to knock on the door of abutter. With larger projects a message board at the shopping center would make sense to have posted notices. In either case there needs to be a clear write up posted in the local paper and on the community focused web sites.

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