The red-hot South Boston housing market showed signs of chafing today when a divided Zoning Board of Appeals today approved a controversial residential project despite opposition from not only residents of a neighboring building but Mayor Walsh, City Councilor Bill Linehan and state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.
The four-story, 45-foot-high building at 340 W. 2 St. will include 29 residential units, 43 parking spaces - 12 of them into which a car elevator will put the vehicles - and first-floor commercial space. Of the 29 units, 18 will have one bedroom, the remaining 11 two bedrooms.
Shamus Holdings LLC's project needed Zoning Board approval because of its density, lot size and height, among other issues. The Boston Redevelopment Authority gave its blessing last year.
Residents of the neighboring building say they are not opposed to any building on the property, but that the proposed structure is just too close to theirs. Residents said the narrow, eight-foot gap between the two buildings would be difficult to clean and maintain and would deprive some residents of sunlight.
"If you can't grow a tree, if you can't grow a plant, how can you grow a person?" resident John Ramos asked the zoning board.
Representatives of elected officials said they could not support a project that has such strong opposition in the neighborhood and for which proponents seemed to give up on trying to reach any sort of agreement with the neighborhood. Both Linehan's and Forry's offices reported receiving numerous phone calls from across the neighborhood.
But George Morancy, attorney for the proposed developers, said his client's project is set back five feet from the property line - the minimum called for in the zoning code - and that it would be unfair to make his client push that back to 15 feet as requested by the neighbors when their project itself got a variance because its building is just three feet from the property line.
And in a warning to neighbors, he said Shamus is concerned that their fireplace vents might violate city building codes and prove a fire hazard that his client might be forced to take action against.
Morancy got support from board member Anthony Pisani.
When the residents' attorney, John Greene, tried to argue that the property itself did not have the sort of hardships for which the board could grant a variance, Pisani cut him off and called the attempted argument "slightly disengeous" given that his clients' own building received similar variances just a few years ago - including a decision to ignore the setback requirement on the side of the building now at issue with the proposed building.
Board Chairman Robert Shortsleeve said if he had his druthers, he'd postpone the vote to give the developer, neighbors and elected officials another chance to reach an agreement. But he added that board rules don't allow deferring votes like that, and he then cast the deciding vote in favor of the zoning request.