A resident of Parsons Street in Brighton is raising funds on GoFundMe to pay for a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeal and the owner of a parking lot at 372 North Beacon St., who wants to lease the space to a tow-lot operator being forced out of Emery Road in Allston.
In the lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Charles McGilvray of Parsons Street, charges that while the towing company seeking to rent the space says it will try to avoid Parsons Street, it likely will use it exclusively because commercial traffic is, at least technically, illegal on all the other routes to the lot, which are DCR parkways which trucks are supposed to avoid. McGilvray is the closest resident to the site, separated by the turnpike and the Worcester Line train tracks.
McGilvrary also charges that the zoning board illegally granted variances to 372 North Beacon St. owner - and Lexington state Rep. - Michelle Ciccuolo to put up a tall fence at the already dangerous corner of Parsons and North Beacon streets, because there is nothing unique about the parcel to cause the sort of hardship variances require.
The zoning board approved Cicuolo's plans in May, subject to a BPDA review of "screening and buffering" to replace the current tattered green gauze that covers a chain link fence around the lot. The proposal called for ten-foot-high fences on the corner lot. The approval also requires Ciccuolo to work with BTD to determine the actual number of cars the lot can hold; in a message to the board, BTD said it was not sure the lot could hold the 69 cars, Ciccuolo proposed.
Ciccuolo wants to rent the lot to D&G Towing, which provides towing and impoundment for cars cited by Boston Police for parking violations in general and by BTD on street-sweeping days in Allston and Brighton. The company's current lot on Emery Street is giving way to a 39-unit residential building as part of that area's relentless transformation from industrial to residential.
Two members - Chairwoman Christine Araujo and Eric Robinson - voted against the proposal. Robinson did not give his reasons, but Araujo said was unhappy that a business that is allowed in what had been an out-of-the-way industrial zone on Emery Street would be moving to a far more visible prominent location at the edge of a residential zone within sight of the Charles River. "This is just, you know, somewhat backwards," she said.
Although the mayor's office supported the proposal, City Councilor Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) opposed it, citing poor maneuverability on the site and the fact that the intersection is already dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists, whose numbers could grow after DCR re-opens a pool nearby and works to make the roads around the parkways that join on the other side of Parsons Street safer for people on foot or two wheels. She also said it would be likely that the tow trucks would likely be hauling their loads down the already busy Parsons Street.
In its formal written decision, not issued until July, the board wrote that the lot, which had previously been used to park construction vehicles for state projects nearby, was appropriate for parking and that "the exceptional narrowness, shallowness or the shape of the lot, or exceptional topographic conditions thereof" let the board issue the required variances because otherwise the lot owner would suffer "demonstrable and substantial hardship."
In addition to his other arguments, McGilvray also contests the permission to simply use the lot for impoundment. Parking lots in that area are allowed, if the zoning board agrees, but McGilvray says the last time the space has been used as a legal parking lot was when a pizza place there burned down in 1974. An impoundment lot is just not the same as a regular parking lot, because it means "a large volume of tow trucks" heading to and from it.
Given the poor maneuverability on the site and the need to use Parsons Street, he continues, that would mean tow trucks lining up onto the residential stretch of Parsons just to deliver their cars.
Watch the ZBA hearing on the proposal: