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At meeting on Allandale Road project, West Roxbury residents ask: What's the point of zoning if developers can just ignore it?

WGBH reports on a Monday BRA meeting about a developer's proposal for a 20-unit eco-friendly condo project on a two-acre parcel next to Allandale Woods.

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Allandale Woods, in West Roxbury, sits on Boston’s western edge, right before city becomes the suburbs.

It's not exactly the West Nowhere, Arkansas. If you're heading outbound on Centre past Allandale, you're still going to go through ALL of Rozzie and ALL of West Roxbury before you get to the suburbs. And, sure, Brookline is awkwardly sandwiched in there, but most of Brighton is West of the Allandale woods.

I expect this utter unfamiliarity with neighborhoods other than Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the Seaport from the Globe, but I expected more from WGBH. Yet another "Boston" media outlet that's actually targeted at suburban commuters who think Boston ends at Mass Ave. Proving yet again that UHub is the last refuge for those of us who care about the WHOLE city.

(Seriously, Adam, thank you for reporting on issues affecting all neighborhoods!)

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Because you're right - you have a ways to go before you hit a suburb on the parkway (that weird bit of Brookline that juts in just before the strip mall with the Bertucci's, the Bruegger's and, of course, Gary's).

But they're kind of right if you drive down Allandale - it's a relatively short road and, just after you spot the Allandale Farm cows (if you're lucky), boom, you're in Brookline (I think most of the farm is actually in Brookline, but whenever I've seen the cows, they've always been on the Boston side of the line).

Thanks for the kind words! There are parts of the city I could cover much better, but I admit I do like to keep up with the happenings down here in the Parkway area.

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...suburban commuters who think Boston ends at Mass Ave.

And Mass Ave. doesn't end in Boston. If I'm not mistaken, one end is in Lexington, beyond 128.

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I wish WGBH had identified Michael Loconto as a Boston School Committee member. I'm curious why he would be in attendance at this meeting since he lives on the other side of West Roxbury. I'm guessing he was asked to attend and throw his support behind the project as a favor to the Mayor and the developer.

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Since you know LoConto is on the School Committee, I'm betting you also know he used to be on the board of West Roxbury Main Streets. The guy has an interest in West Roxbury development in general.

If the mayor really wanted to influence a BRA community meeting (typically not attended by any BRA board members), don't you think he'd send somebody weightier than a mild-mannered School Committee member? Or just pick up the phone and call the people he appointed to the BRA board?

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I still think it's hilarious that this is West Roxbury. It's like a gerrymandered district or something.

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From Heath Street to the Charles, it was once all one town.

Of course, before that it was all a part of Roxbury, but I am sure that concept scares a lot of people in the western lands.

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But really if Moss Hill is JP, this part of town should be JP.

Also Forrest Hills should be part of Roslindale but that's another issue. I like neighborhoods with understandable borders, like Centre St and the West Rox Parkway between Rosi and WR.

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The Hebrew Rehabilitation Center is in Roslindale, the Annunciation Melkite Church is in West Roxbury, and the Faulkner is in Jamaica Plain. But yeah, when I think Allandale Street, I think Jamaica Plain. And the farm.

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the JP zip code, but the City's zoning maps place the location in the W. Roxbury zoning area. Across the street is JP zoning.

Another instance of the blurring of neighborhood lines in Boston.

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I thought about going and I don't live in West Rox at all. I think a lot of people are interested in this development from a design perspective.

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W Roxbury has the most unhappy grumpy liberal population of humans that inhabit earth

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There are many adjectives one could use to describe West Roxbury. "Liberal" is not one of them.

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In these situations, the point of zoning is to enrich incumbent property owners at the expense of everyone else.

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While it is certainly a convenient argument for abutters to persevere their leafy, bucolic setting, there's a lot of validity to the argument that zoning should mean something. There's a big difference to me between say asking for a variance for a building which is going to be 5' taller than allowed (like above Tony's/Redd's) and asking to build 20 units of housing on a lot zoned for a single family.

So I like the idea of this development but I think we need to systemically improve the zoning laws first, then work on exceptions to zoning. Otherwise we'll have a situation where insider backroom stuff to get zoning variances approved will be the norm.

Of course a true eco friendly project would be built on major public transportation hub somewhere vs. a neighborhood only served by the occasional bus.

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Otherwise we'll have a situation where insider backroom stuff to get zoning variances approved will be the norm.

SPOILER ALERT! It already is.

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but don't worry, Marty Walsh once elected is going to improve all of that and make city governance more transparent.

Sadly, he didn't give a specific timetable for when he was going to do that...

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The zoning in that district is for 8000 square foot lots, so a developer could stick a cul-de-sac in there and still have room to build nine or ten mcmansions with lawns as-of-right. So the zoning variance is about whether they want nine or ten mcmansions or twenty smaller, eco-friendly units. The eco-friendly units would probably preserve more of the existing trees and topography, would provide twice as much needed family-friendly housing, and would be much, much cooler than mcmansions.

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are hardly small. 3000 to 4000 square feet. A McMansion would take up more square footage on the ground, making it impossible to build as many as you say they could.

Under the present plan most of the lot will be clear cut for construction with proposed native plants as landscaping. Though once it is a community association the landscaping will be up to the unit owners.

The developer estimates construction at $20 million. So that gives you an idea what the prices of the 20 proposed units will be. I'm not sure this qualifies as "much needed family-friendly housing." I don't think Boston has a shortage of $1.5 million family friendly housing.

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of this net zero LEED certified development is what you mention. It will have 47 parking spaces for 20 units. Two per unit and seven guest spaces.

I think the developer could build 10 units as of right. So she will need the variances from the ZBA if the BRA approves the current plan, not only to build double the amount, but for setbacks, and height. These buildings will be three to four stories.

Most zoning variances in the area involve adding a dormer or two or a small vestibule at the front door. The zoning regulations may or may not be too restrictive but they should be evaluated for a whole area and not done piecemeal.

Other institutional abutters to Allandale Woods have put between 36 and 47% of their property in a conservation easement greatly increasing the size of the woods. This development plan puts tall townhouses very close to the edge of the woods with not much of a buffer. It's a tricky lot with a 30 or 40 foot incline from Allandale St. to the woodland. Runoff is a major concern.

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Same story all over eastern mass. Mayors and zoning departments roll over for practically every developer that comes knocking. They say more density means more affordability but these developments are all aimed at people with money. So the real reason is more tax revenue.

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I can't speak specifically to W. Roxbury, but on the whole the zoning code of Boston is just outdated. If the city forced every development to conform to existing as of right heights, most of the development in Boston would disappear because developers would not be able to get their pro-formas to work out. It isn't always just pure greed when asking for additional height, you have to consider how ludicrously expensive it is to build anything here right now.

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Nothing is requiring people to speculate on development. That shouldn't be the goal of zoning.

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West Roxbury residents try to abuse zoning as a weapon to keep new people out. Then they whine when their evil plan doesn't work. Sad!

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How is asking that the development conform to existing zoning, abusing it? Seems like the opposite here.

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Interesting finds: Two posts on the Imagine Boston 2030 (http://courbanize.com/m/projects/521/comaps/3?loc=...) directly fighting this proposal.

Then, a Google search for "Friends of the Allandale Woods" nets a lot of local news coverage, but the actual website for FoAW is way, way down. A quick WhoIs search of AllandaleWoods.org shows it was registered barely two weeks ago, on 4/12/2016; the owner info is hidden, because, of course they're not an actual non-profit organisation.

All of this tells me FoAW is a reactionary group against development, as opposed to an active group of folks working to promote the Woods. If they were more of the latter, I'd be more willing to consider their arguments.

Sadly, they're just like every other West Roxbury group, dead set against any development, anywhere.

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on Monday night, one of the founders of the Friends (and I can't remember his name) told the group that they had put up a new website for the woodland. So the newness of the site is not secret. And yes, it usually takes an actual or perceived threat to motivate people to organize.

I know that some like to demonize West Roxbury but there were as many people at the meeting from Roslindale and JP--people who live closer to the site.

Some opponents may be against the development (or any development anywhere), but most find the development to be innovative but too dense and are for its being built according to the current zoning regulations.

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I'm pretty sure Westie's anti-development reputation is a hard earned one.

As for density, I'm not sure 20 townhouses are any more dense than the assisted living facility right next door, or the hospital across the street.

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People are allowed to advocate for less development in their neighborhood and other kinds of zoning.

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"Every other institutional-scale project built along the woods has put nearly half of their land into conservation easement, to protect and enlarge the woods (Allandale Condos 39%, Sophia Snow Place, 51%, Springhouse, 46%). This developer proposes to defy this practice and instead build so densely that there is no place for snow removal. It would permanently need to be trucked off-site even though the project is being touted for its supposed environmental commitments."

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15081287/Conservation%20Easements%20...

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/16491467/Allandale%20Concerns_Post%2...

I don't like that they need to build 20 units that high and simply don't believe that the runoff wouldn't affect the woods.

"Composed primarily of oaks, maples, and pines, Allandale Woods is one of the few relatively pristine secondary growth oak-hickory forests in the city of Boston."
http://www.cityofboston.gov/parks/urbanwilds/AllandaleWoods.asp

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