Court Upholds BHAC’s Position in Ramp Case

Suffolk Superior Court weighed in last week on the city’s motion to dismiss a complaint brought by the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) and 12 residents.  The initial complaint asserted that the process the city used to bring the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act circumvented the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission and could set a precedent that could potentially jeopardize the historic character of the neighborhood.

The complaint was filed against the city and William Christopher, Commissioner of the city’s Inspectional Services Department, on August 12 in response to Mayor Martin Walsh’s announcement that the city would bypass the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission to install the first 13 of approximately 250 concrete ramps with plastic tactile-strips in the neighborhood on Beacon Street. The Architectural Commission had accepted the idea of installing the ramps and the designs submitted by the city but had twice rejected the proposed materials. However, construction commenced on the project in August without the Architectural Commission’s approval, following ISD’s determination that the neighborhood’s curb-cuts and intersections needed immediate upgrading for safety reasons.

In a notice dated March 25, Bonnie M. MacLeod, justice of the Superior Court, denied the city’s motion to dismiss the BHCA’s claim that the project was in violation of the 1955 Enabling Act that mandates that “any entity proposing to change an exterior architectural feature in Beacon Hill must first obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the Architectural Commission”, thus upholding the BHCA’s position that the city needed to gain Architectural Commission’s approval for changes to the historic district.

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