Police nab T tagging suspect in East Boston

Transit Police report their BPD counterparts arrested Marc Meadowcroft in East Boston this afternoon.

Meadowcroft faces a variety of graffiti-related felony changes for his alleged penchant for spraying his pen name across MBTA vehicles, stations and walls; following convictions for earlier paint-based vandalism, including on the historic trolleys parked at Boylston station.

After spending some time out west, Meadowcroft recently returned to the Boston area and was, allegedly, captured on video scrawling his name on some windows at the Forest Hills T stop. A bolder, spray-painted version of his name appeared around the same time on the grates n front of a store a couple blocks away on South Street.

Innocent, etc.

BPS assignment system that was supposed to ensure all kids had access to a quality school is failing, report says

The Globe gets a copy of a report on the MIT-devised school-assignment system BPS used to replace the old zone system several years ago with the hopes that every elementary-school student in the city would be given a choice of at least one high-quality elementary school. The report found the system is working well - for kids in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Studio apartments proposed for vacant lot in Dudley Square

Architect's rendering.

Developer Michael McGough of Dorchester has filed plans with the BPDA to replace a vacant lot on Warren Street at Winthrop Street in Dudley Square with a five-story, 21-studio apartment building - with ground-floor space for a restaurant or shop.

In the BPDA filing, McGough and architect Derek Rubinoff say the $3-million building, which would go where a two-family home burned down in 2014, would be aimed at "entry-level workers including young professionals who will commute via public transportation and bicycle. The site’s convenience to amenities available by foot will empower residents to not be automobile-dependent."

So no parking spaces, save two set aside for car-sharing services and one for the use of a handicapped resident. They're so confident people without cars would rent the units that they're willing to make the building exempt from any resident-permit programs for Roxbury, and note the site's proximity to the Silver Line and numerous other bus lines, as well as its relative nearness to an Orange Line stop.

Four of the units would be rented at "affordable" rates.

The fifth floor would consist of a common room and a rooftop deck and garden.

The proposed building provides street-wall infill massing at an important corner and continues the flow of Victorian brick-faced apartment units that are common on Warren and Winthrop Street. The massing of the building is divided so as to feel more like a collection of three townhouses or small Victorian urban apartment buildings than one large one. The building will prominently address the corner of Winthrop and Warren with a large, transparent, vertical bay, as is customary for other apartment buildings on corner sites along Warren Street. At the top will be a modern, glassy recreation space for residents which will overlook the corner, providing incredible views of downtown. This will be capped, like many other Roxbury vertical bays, by a turret, providing a dramatic architectural gesture addressing the corner. Similar vertical bays will treat the corners along Winthrop Street and along Warren Street adjacent to the historic Warren family home at 130 Warren Street.

The proposal is the latest proof that Dudley Square is becoming a hot development area. In addition to a proposed skyscraper and other private proposals, the city plans to issue an RFP for city-owned lots in the neighborhood.

124-126 Warren St. small-project review application (5.5M PDF).

The Boston Consulting Group could use some consulting on Boston neighborhoods

Last month, the Boston Consulting Group, which promises to "bring the right people together to challenge established thinking and drive transformation," issued a report on lessons from Boston on "reshaping urban mobility with autonomous vehicles."

It's no doubt full of deep insights into robocars, but we just can't get past this map of adoption rates by neighborhood, or something - brought to our attention by Mark Bennett. Just how many problems with it can you find?

What a releaf: Judicial branch axes woman's demand that neighbors uproot tree overhanging her roof

In a case involving two feuding Quincy neighbors, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today it will never see a poem lovely as a tree.

In its ruling, the state's highest court upheld longstanding Massachusetts case law that a property owner cannot compel a neighbor to cut down an otherwise healthy tree - or even be forced to pay for any damages the tree might cause to the neighbor's property.

The court did say that Mary Shiel - who sued John and Keli-Jo Rowell over the 100-year-old sugar maple with branches that extended from their yard over her house - was free to prune back the branches she said were causing algae to build up on and damage her roof.

Shiel said that was fine with her if the Rowells wouldn't cut down the tree - but only on condition that the Rowells pay for the work. When they refused, she sued, arguing the "Massachusetts rule" that protects owners of healthy trees was an outdated relic of a more pastoral time and that the state should adopt "the Hawaii rule," in which neighbors could seek monetary damages for any physical damage caused by trees on adjoining lots. She appealed after a lower-court judge dismissed her case.

The court summed up her reasoning:

Shiel contends that the Massachusetts rule is outdated and should be replaced by the Hawaii rule because today people are living in closer proximity to one another on smaller tracts of land than they were when the Massachusetts rule was adopted. She argues that trees today are more likely to cause damage to neighbors' property and tree owners are better able to manage their trees, which justifies giving parties a right of action to resolve disputes in court.

The Rowells retorted there was no good reason to uproot the Massachusetts precedent, which has been upheld in a series of court decisions dating to at least 1931, and cited the legal principle of stare decisis, which basically says that out of little decisions, giant legal precedent grows:

The Rowells urge us not to disturb the Massachusetts rule, based on the doctrine of stare decisis and because, in their view, the Massachusetts rule is more sensible. They argue that there is no compelling reason to abandon the Massachusetts rule and that upholding precedent supports certainty in the law.

The court agreed with the Rowells and said there was no reason to prune back its 1931 decision, which dismissed a similar suit in which one person sued over root damage caused to his water and sewer lines by a neighbor's tree. In that case, the justices extended earlier prohibitions against suits over trees that shaded a neighbor's lot to a prohibition against suits over more damaging intrusions, such as tree roots blocking water and drain lines:

We see no distinction in principle between damage done by shade, and damage caused by overhanging branches or invading roots. The principle involved is that an owner of land is at liberty to use his land, and all of it, to grow trees. Their growth naturally and reasonably will be accompanied by the extension of boughs and the penetration of roots over and into adjoining property of others.

As the court did today, the court then said the harmed property owner was free to yank out the roots - just not with any expectation of remuneration.

And while today's court said it is not afraid of overturning settled law when merited - it cited a 1976 decision to overturn a prohibition on one spouse suing another as proof - this case contains no such merit, even if courts in certain other states it could name find our rule "outdated."

It may be true that people today are living in closer proximity to one another on smaller tracts of land than they were when the Massachusetts rule was adopted in the early Twentieth Century. But if changes in property ownership would lead us to believe that tree owners are now better able to monitor their trees, the same would be true for their neighbors to monitor and trim encroaching trees. It may be easier to recognize impending or potential harm to one's own property from overhanging branches and intruding roots than it would be for the tree owner to recognize what is happening next door. And even if it is also true that trees today are more likely to cause property damage to neighbors' property, it would be "undesirable to categorize living trees, plants, roots, or vines as a 'nuisance' to be abated." Melnick, 312 Md. at 520-521.

Going even further out on that legal limb, the justices continued:

The Massachusetts rule today, just as it did when [the 1931 case] was decided, may prevent unnecessary legal harassment from neighbors who merely have an axe to grind for reasons other than purported tree problems.

For these reasons, we decline to fell judicial precedent and instead reaffirm the Massachusetts rule ...

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