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Owners of three-family house on Meetinghouse Hill win permission to expand to nine units

Rendeirng of expanded High Street building

Rendering by Anthony Pisani, showing new wings coming off existing house in center.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved plans to expand a 3-family house at 16 High St. in Dorchester to nine units, following a hearing that turned into a mini-debate about the future of Meetinghouse Hill and Dorchester's other residential hills - Jones, Popes and Savin.

The building's owners - Hongan, Inc., a group of investors from Canton and Dorchester - agreed to designate one of the units as affordable, with it going to a family making no more than 70% of the Boston-area median income, their attorney, Ryan Spitz, said.

Jim Milke of the Meetinghouse Hill Civic Association tore into the proposal, saying the Dot Block project and other projects at the bottom of or on Meetinghouse Hill are bringing hundreds of new apartments and condos to the area - and that, already, building owners are having trouble finding people to actually move into the new units.

Milke said that Meetinghouse, Jones, Savin and Popes hills are all "family friendly" areas, that the "value of these hills adds value to the rest of Dorchester" and that the apartments would help to erode that fundamental nature on Meetinghouse Hill.

Plus, he continued, the hill already has "pandemonium" at the beginning and start of every school day as frenzied hordes of double-parking, horn-mad parents drop off and pick up their kids at the Mather School at the top of the hill. The chaos "is really not to be believed," he said, referring to 15 to 20 straight minutes of horn blaring twice a day.

And don't get him started on the design of the rear of the proposed building, which he said "looks like it came out of a Home Depot design supply store."

In conclusion, he said, one landlord's desire for profit should not be allowed to trump the property values around it that he said would decline with the building.

Meetinhouse Hill resident Cait Davison raised the issue of gentrification. She said the building would further increase property values - and home-insurance rates - that would help drive out the hill's Black and Brown residents, like one of her neighbors, a Black woman, whos said her homeowner's insurance has gone up $2,000 because insurers increase rates in more dense neighborhood. Davison said she worries Meetinghouse Hill is becoming "no longer affordable to the Black and Brown families who proudly live there."

She asked why the city isn't dealing with this slow-rolling red-lining by placing affordable housing in "predominantly White neighborhoods" - such as Jones and Savin Hill.

Two zoning-board members took the residents' critiques to heart, if not enough to vote against the project.

Board member Hansy Better Barraza said the project's required variances - which included height, number of parking spaces and overall size compared to its lot dimensions - were not by themselves onerous given the lot's relatively large size of 11,500 square feet. But she said the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services should begin working with Meetinghouse Hill residents on their concerns, in particular the issues of gentrification raised by Davison.

Board member David Aiken said a project to go from three to nine units wasn't enough to block the variances it needed, but acknowledged the residents had raised global, citywide issues that need addressing.

Through an aide, City Councilor John FitzGerald said that while he appreciated the residents' concerns about housing oversaturation, he supported the requested variances because of the lot's size. However, City Councilor Brian Worrell, citing the Meetinghouse Hill Civic Association's opposition, opposed them.

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Comments

Real Estate investors and developers in Boston are doing there best to get Trump rich "Look at all these wonderful properties we own" and not giving one good g-damn about the neighborhoods they are affecting..

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Existing luxury single-family home owners in Boston are doing their best to get gated community rich "look how much empty land my neighbor has" and not giving one g-damn about the people struggling to afford housing because of the lack of supply, and the environmental costs of sprawl.

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Voting closed 21

I"d say the two comments above have a good amount of truth to them.

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