BHAC Reviews 60 Chestnut Street Violation

September 27, 2018
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A violation for 60 Chestnut St. was among the agenda items at the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission’s public hearing at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 20.              The applicant, John Holland of the Boston commercial and residential development firm Holland Companies, said work on the single-family home includes the installation of a railing on the rooftop deck on the rear garage and two HVAC condensers on the garage roof, as well as a proposed, temporary mesh screening in front of the equipment.

Holland said the approved railing had been moved back to make way for 4½-foot planters that block the condensers from view on Branch Street.

According to direct abutters, however, the homeowners and their contractor received a certificate of appropriateness from the BHAC to increase the footprint of their existing deck, and to install a wrought-iron railing and movable planters, but instead they installed two, new HVAC condensers, raised the floor of the deck and permanently affixed a “solid wall/railing” at the rear of the deck.

“There has been a lack of transparency throughout the whole process,” said Johanna Lee, who lives with her father, Dr. James Lee at 62 Chestnut St. “A revised proposal was submitted prior to construction, which we never saw and didn’t realize existed until the deck had been elevated by between 2 and 2½ feet.”

Also, Johanna said the garage was previously partially uncovered, and that she was unaware of the approval of any revised plans that would allow its roof-deck to be raised to the level where it could be visible from the street.

“Clearly you’re not happy with the deck, but that was approved a long time ago,” Holland countered, although he conceded, “It appears the condensers weren’t approved.”

Chair Kenneth Taylor referred Holland to work with BHAC staff and abutters to define the violations and work out possible solutions. “You’ve done something much different than what was approved,” Taylor said.

In another matter continued from July, the applicant, Don Mills, principal for Cambridge-based Mills Whitaker Architects, LLC, proposed demolishing and reconstructing a rear, one-story addition and replacing HVAC units on roof of a two-story carriage house owned by the Park Street School at 55-57 Brimmer St.

Mills said the school intends to convert the former ground-level garage into a science lab and classroom while the erstwhile single-family residence upstairs would be repurposed as a meeting room and administrative offices. Its one-story garage would also be reconstructed as part of the project, he said.

While the plans had originally included an exterior staircase at the rear of the building, Mills said it has been reconfigured as an interior staircase in response to an abutter’s concern about their home security.

Mills said this would require a variance from the Inspectional Services Department, but that Luis Santana, the city’s inspections engineer, had indicated that he wouldn’t oppose this potential zoning relief.

The commission approved a motion by a vote of 4-1 to approve the application, with the proviso that the commission would be open to the reconfigured staircase if the applicant can secure the variance.

Meanwhile, in an application continued from the July and August hearings, Zack Sambucci proposed repairing 19 window-sashes and storm-windows on the second through top floors of a four-story brownstone at 120 Charles St., including removing the sashes to ensure they’re operational, replacing broken glass, glazing and painting.

The commission unanimously approved the application, with the provisos that the scope of work be increased to include the windows on ground level, and that the sashes be painted the same color throughout the building’s exterior.

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