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A tale of two houses: One single-family house in West Roxbury rejected after neighbors complain; second house approved when nobody complains

The Zoning Board of Appeal today rejected a proposal for a single-family home on a vacant lot at 8 Libbey St., off Lagrange Street in West Roxbury - but approved one for Petrel Street in the neighborhood's bird-street area.

Dennis and Josephine Sullivan, who purchased the 4,450-square foot lot across from their Libbey Street home in 2016, had proposed building a roughly 2,600-square foot house on the property. The house needed zoning-board approval because it sits in a part of West Roxbury zoned for 6,000-square-foot lots and because even if the zoning allowed a house on the lot, it shouldn't be more than about 1,800 square feet.

The Sullivans' attorney, Kevin Cloutier of West Roxbury, said the couple wanted to build "a modest single family home" in character with the other houses on the street and that the Sullivans, who had lived on the street for more than 20 years, had cleaned up what had been a "densely overgrown" lot.

The mayor's office and City Councilors Matt O'Malley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty supported the proposal.

One neighbor, a direct abutter, praised the proposed house, said it was very much like hers and that the proposal had her "total support."

Other neighbors, however, did not hold back in opposing the house. One resident called the proposed house "a McMansion" on "a tiny little lot," while another said the Sullivans had led past opposition to previous owners' attempts to build on the lot and a third, after discussing how many rooms and offspring the Sullivans have, questioned why they even needed another house.

Before calling for a vote, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said that one thing her years on the board have taught her is that the hardest thing in Boston "is to build a one-family house" - especially in West Roxbury, where so much of the residential land is zoned for 6,000-square lots even though that means many existing lots that pre-date current zoning would be ineligible for construction.

Member Mark Erlich then moved to approve the proposal, subject to design review by the BPDA. But the motion died when none of the other four board members seconded him and the project was formally rejected. The Sullivans can try again in a year.

After that vote, the board then approved a single-family house proposed for a 5,400-square-foot lot at 2 Petrel St., off Maple Street and just down from Curlew and Eagle streets.

As with the Libbey Street proposal, the mayor's office and councilors O'Malley, Essaibi-George and Flaherty supported the proposal. Unlike with Libbey Street, however, nobody rose to oppose the proposal and the board voted to approve it unanimously.




So they could build a 1800 sq. ft house but wanted to build a bigger one? Or they would need a zoning variance regardless of house size due to the lot size?

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...is why we need new citywide zoning.

sounds like they violated both lot and house zoning rules, so needed a variance for both.

In either case - this should have been allowed - not as a single family house - but as multi-family. The days where anywhere in the city are single family should be behind us. We need about 3000 units a year to keep up with housing and it's very hard to find economical places to build. (on top of the fact that single family houses have a horrible carbon footprint)

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is 6000 sf lot minimum with house size under 1800 sq foot.
although look along Belle ave or any other place and see this is a joke.
the whole process is arbitrary and hit or miss. earlier this year there was a permit given and after complaints the lot was non conforming and it requires 3 other variances. It is being built now over neighbor objections. Very frustrating

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until the city has mandatory minimums for shit like insulation, soundproofing, and actually enforces "bad neighbor" laws like noise complaints etc, getting rid of all the single families isn't going to work. people need a place to live where their 9 month old isn't getting woken up all the time by shitty upstairs rental neighbors having a 2am Tuesday party

alternatively, the state could step in and fix transportation, and make decamping to the suburbs an actual solution that people can actually feasibly accomplish without spending 4 hours a day and 400 dollars a week on dead smoking trains.

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by golly, sir, thank you for that wonderful, transit-rich suggestion, you've absolutely decimated my point. now let me hop on the nonexistent buses to dedham.

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here's a link to the Dedham commuter rail stop.


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One was the lot size: That area requires a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet.

The other was the building's floor-to-area ratio, which is a measure of how dense the structure would be. That area requires an FAR of no more than 0.4 (basically, divide the total square footage of the house by the size of the lot).

His lot is under 6,000 square feet and his proposed house had too high an FAR (0.6), so the board would have had to grant him variances for both (there was a third issue, involving the distance of the front of the house from the curb, but nobody seemed concerned about that).

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Government has picked winners. I hate almost everybody in this story.

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This is shameful.. an attack on single family zoning is an attack on the family unit itself.

If there were other homes abutting that were similar, they should be allowed to build the original plan.

This is pure Bolshevism

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