Civic groups, residents at odds on Parkman St. condo proposal

This existing property at 18-20 Parkman St. would make way for a new building with nine units of housing under a current proposal. Seth Daniel photo

Though invisible to the naked eye or to those unaffiliated civically, Parkman Street represents a stark boundary between Fields Corner and the St. Mark’s area, and while that boundary has been mostly non-controversial, a nine-unit condo development on the street is highlighting differences on both sides of the line.

While the Fields Corner Civic Association (FCCA) has signaled it will approve the project, which is on the Fields Corner side of Parkman, this week, the St. Mark’s Area Civic Association (SMACA) has expressed grave concerns about the development and called for a slowdown in the process at the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) until the developer comes to their meeting and allows them to vote on the matter, even though it’s officially out of their area.

Sandwiched in between the sides are several abutters not affiliated with either civic association who feel that no one is communicating with them or listening to their concerns, which are mostly against the development.

The development proposal by Mark Little of South Boston’s Abacus Builders is located at 18-20 Parkman St. It first came in at more than 20 units, then went down to 14, and now sits at 9 units with 17 parking spaces.

Doug Hurley and Doug Sheehan of SMACA have asked the developer to defer a Jan. 11 hearing at the ZBA until he presents at a SMACA meeting. They said some of their members on the other side of the street would like a chance to weigh in and vote on the project – which sets a new precedent for the street, Hurley said.

“That street has double lots, but mostly single-family and two-family homes,” said Hurley, a member of the SMACA Executive Board. “That’s the precedent, but we’re going to change that precedent to say if you have a double lot, have at it and go build nine units. We can’t ever say no again if we say yes to them…This is still our neighborhood, too. Our members live on the opposite side of the street, and they’d like a have a say on this.”

FCCA President Hiep Chu said they have discussed Parkman Street for many months at their meetings, and after a long process, those who were dues-paying members in good standing were allowed to vote. A yes vote passed rather easily and FCCA wrote a letter of support. He said he knows not everyone agrees with the FCCA position, but the project does fall under Fields Corner’s jurisdiction.
“I don’t necessarily see this developer in this case as a bad person,” said Chu. “They are responsible people and they stuck to the process, which is important. The other thing is: This is one project that will not please everybody.”

Abutters— like Jordan Salmanowicz, Robert Zaccardi, and Amanda Pham— who say they are not members of either association, don’t feel either association represents their sentiments. In fact, they said they were taken by surprise with the FCCA letter of support and weren’t informed of the November meeting where the vote took place.

Now, Salmanowicz is leading a charge to get signatures of opposition up and down Parkman Street to show those in charge that there isn’t wide support around the neighborhood as communicated by the FCCA letter.

“My issue with the project is that 9 units and 17 off-street parking spaces is just too much for our street,” said Pham. “It’s already a small street and we do not need more congestion. The design that they have in mind for the street is not cohesive with the surrounding houses, and it will dramatically stand out. They’re not taking into account how it will affect the houses around them.”

Little was not immediately available for comment, as he was travelling outside of the country. In text messages, he did not say whether he would defer the hearing on Jan. 11.

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