The Zoning Board of Appeal today agreed to construction of a single-family home on Libbey Street and the expansion of an existing single-family home on Maple Street in hearings in which the board chairwoman felt compelled to tell the attorney for both families to "chill" twice.
The board agreed to let Dennis and Josephine Sullivan put a roughly 2,400-square-foot house on a roughly 4,250 vacant parcel at 8 Libbey St. - 18 months after the board rejected their proposal for a slightly larger house on the lot.
The Sullivans, who live at 11 Libbey St., had the backing of the mayor's office, City Councilor Matt O'Malley and the West Roxbury Neighborhood Council, and some neighbors for the project, which needed a variance because the street's current zoning calls for a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet.
Their attorney, Kevin Cloutier of West Roxbury, asked to have them speak, but board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said that wouldn't be necessary.
Other neighbors however, said the house, even at the smaller size, was still what one called "a mansion for that small lot" that would bring too many cars onto the side street off a side street off a residential section of Lagrange Street. One abutter said she and a neighbor offered to buy the lot from the Sullivans so they could keep the land vacant, but said the couple wouldn't consider their offer. "This neighborhood is being made to suffer," she said.
Other residents, though, said they've never had any parking or traffic problems on the street.
"We always have a hard time with one families being proposed in one-family neighborhoods," board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said, echoing a similar comment she made in 2019.
The board also gave permission to Colleen and Renzo Monzon to turn their bungalow-style one-story house at 175 Maple St., off Weld Street, into a 2 1/2-story house that would seemingly fit in with the Victorian-style houses on either side, but whose residents objected, saying it would cut off their light and air and invade their privacy.
Rendering showing proposed taller house between two existing neighboring houses:
Cloutier, who also represents the Monzons, also sought to have them speak, to explain why they wanted the extra space to put down roots and raise their kids there, but Araujo again did not feel that was necessary. "Can you please chill?" she asked Cloutier, who then chilled, at least for awhile, since Araujo later asked him to "just relax, OK?"
As part of their project, the Monzons agreed to give up the illegally converted living space in their basement, in exchange for a building that Cloutier said would be eight feet lower than the maximum 35 feet allowed.
Neighbors, however, said Cloutier's calculations for what he considered the house's "floor-to-area ratio," a measure of density, did not include all of the attic and dormer-like space that would be used for a stairway up to the attic.
Neighbor Meg Mainzer-Cohen said the added height of the building would block the sun that now streams into her home. "This really does strike at the heart of why we bought our home in the first place," Mainzer-Cohen, who routinely deals with proposals for large and tall towers in her work as president of the Back Bay Association, told the board.
"It's a very large house on a very small lot," another neighbor said.
Araujo asked Cloutier if, in the interests of neighborhood amity, the Monzons would consider lopping the attic off their proposal - which would still leave them room for the three second-floor bedrooms, the first-floor living room, den and kitchen and storage space in the basement. Cloutier said, no, they hadn't considered that, that they thought the fact that the building was already well under the 35-foot limit was enough.
The mayor's office and aides to City Councilors Matt O'Malley and Michelle Wu voiced opposition to the proposal. The West Roxbury Neighborhood Council voted in favor, but unlike with the unanimous vote for the Libbey Street proposal, split 5-2.
The board voted 6-1 to approve the proposal, but added a proviso that the Monzons be barred from building living space in the attic. Board member Eric Robinson said that, legally, they couldn't put living space in the attic anyway, because at 6'10," the space does not have enough height.