Columbia-Savin Hill debates Pearl St. house conversion

20 Pearl Street, Dorchester
The owner sought— and won— civic group’s support to change the property from a two-family to a three-family dwelling. A ZBA hearing is set for April 30. Google image

Members of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association voted to support the potential change of occupancy certification from two to three units at 20 Pearl Street at Monday’s general membership meeting.

James Christopher, the principal manager of 686 Architects, said at the meeting that the building has been taxed as a three-family unit since 2011, even though only two households occupy it. It was sold in 2023 as a three-family dwelling, though, Christopher said, changing the legal occupancy and installing a sprinkler system would bring no change to the floorplan.
He said the new owners’ intention is to rent the property as a three-family property.

“We have to take a stand, and the stand should be not even three,” said Don Walsh, a member of the civic association. “Zoning is set up to protect the quality of life in the community. And if that zone is set up for a two-family, anyone who buys that has no right to think they can make it a three, or a nine, or anything else.”

The Planning Committee had previously approved supporting the project by a vote of 8-6, with one abstaining. A Google Form was circulated at the meeting as a method of taking an up or down vote from the general membership.

The next day, the tally showed that a majority of people who voted supported the project. Thirty voted in support, 17 opposed the conversion, and 8 votes were ruled invalid, according to Kristine Hoag, a member of the civic group’s executive board.
According to Hoag, the project will go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on April 30.

Other items on the civic group’s agenda featured updates on both the Squares and Streets rezoning initiative from the city and the upcoming meeting of the Morrissey Boulevard Commission, set for April 23, at 6 p.m. at Cristo Rey Boston High School. Jake Wachman, chair of the group’s Government Affairs Committee, urged as many people as possible to attend.

Wachman also serves as a member of the Morrissey Commission as state Sen. Nick Collins’s designated member.

“The process itself has not been responsive to community input,” he said. “And there’s only two meetings left, and they haven’t been that well attended. So, I think MassDOT needs to do better. We’re going to hold them accountable.”

The next general meeting will be held on May 6. See the website for more details.

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