Civic Association Opposes 30 Chestnut St. Application

The Beacon Hill Civic Association voted Monday, March 8, to ratify a vote of opposition made last week by its Zoning and Licensing Committee on a controversial application for 30 Chestnut St.

The applicant, Ty Gupta, is seeking to renovate the existing 5,846 square- foot, three-family home into a two-family dwelling, and, as part of this project, to expand the existing fifth-floor loft area, which would increase the structure’s floor area from 459 to 536 square feet (and the existing building’s Floor Area Ratio from 2.618X to 2.652X). The applicant is also proposing a new fifth-floor roofdeck on the north-facing side of the building that would measure 22-feet-by-11-feet-6-inches.

David Freed, the architect for the project, said at the March 3 meeting of the Zoning and Licensing Committee that the applicant proposed the loft expansion as part of plans to extend an existing staircase, which currently runs from the ground level to the fourth floor, to the building’s fifth level.

At the loft level, the applicant is seeking to extend both sidewalls to the adjacent party walls, he said, which would provide the room necessary to accommodate the staircase extension.

“The FAR increase is solely on the roof,” Freed said. “It’s just two slivers on the existing sidewalls and the party walls. The only increase in FAR is this [loft] extension.”

The existing loft structure, which Freed said is in a state of disrepair, is now clad in corrugated-metal siding and painted white, while the applicant has proposed recladding all four sides of the structure in standing-seam copper, as well as adding fenestration and a new door to its front.

The proposed loft renovation would have a flat 10-foot roof, Freed said, compared to its existing height of 11 feet in front and 10 feet in back.

Frank McGuire, co-chair of the Civic Association’s Architectural Commission, advised the applicant that any new proposed roofdeck would have to go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal and said the Inspectional Services Department would likely have questions about a proposed structure that extends to the face of the chimneys, as the applicant has proposed.

Moreover, McGuire instructed the applicant that he would also need to go before the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission again if the proposed roofdeck is deemed visible from a public way.

The applicant appeared before the Architectural Commission at its Nov. 19 hearing regarding a violation for the unapproved removal of historic windows, which was ratified, and also received approval to rebuild an existing chimney. But the commission has yet to make a determination on the proposed roofdeck.

In October, the city’s Inspectional Service Department denied an application for proposed work at 30 Chestnut St., citing excessive FAR.

An applicant going before the Architectural Commission prior to appearing before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal isn’t the “normal process,” said Tom Clemens, Zoning and Licensing Committee co-chair.

“We need to get abutters involved in the Board of Appeal process if we’re going to get this to stick at the city level,” Clemens said at the March 8 board meeting.

Gupta said he has a hearing date scheduled with the ZBA for the last week of March.

John Blasberg, a direct abutter at 28 Chestnut St., expressed concern that if the loft structure is expanded, it could “come into contact” with the chimneys at their home, potentially breaching the clearance area he said is mandated between chimneys and other structures per zoning codes.

“We also haven’t seen the plans to know enough about how it would impact the integrity of our property,” Blasberg added.

McGuire said the chimney conditions at 30 Chestnut St. are already nonconforming, since “chimneys must be 3 feet away from any roof structure within 10 feet of the building.”

Subsequently, McGuire said, “If you extend it as the proponent wants to do, you’re extending a nonconforming [condition], and all chimneys on all adjoining building would have to be extended, and this would affect the view corridor.”

In response to one abutter, Gupta said that a ventilation pipe now visible on the roofline was cut in error, and that it’s actual height would be 14 to 16 inches above the rubber roof, which would be obscured from sight by a 42-45-inch parapet wall.

The condensers have been repositioned from sitting on the fifth-floor structure to new location on the fourth floor behind the loft structure.

As for sound mitigation, none would be necessary, said Gupta, since the condensers on the roof would emit no more than 59 decibels (dB). “It’s like a very quiet whisper,” he reassured abutters.

Patricia Germann, the niece of Sheridan Germann, who has lived at 32 Chestnut St. since 1968, spoke from Canada at last week’s Zoning and Licensing Committee meeting and said she was vehemently opposed to the project.

But her testimony came under scrutiny Monday when Clemens said during the board meeting that Sheridan Germann had since contacted the Civic Association via his attorneys, saying that he hadn’t authorized his niece to speak on his behalf, and that he personally wasn’t opposed to the project.

“We don’t know to what extent the supposed abutter at 32 Chestnut influenced [the committee’s] vote,” said Kathy Judge, committee co-chair, of the committee’s 8-3 vote (with three abstaining) to oppose the application.

Eve Waterfall, a committee member who voted to oppose the project last week, said ultimately Patricia Germann’s testimony factored much less into her decision than the potential FAR increase did.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Thibodeau of the Civic Association said during the March 8 board meeting that the project’s developer appeared to had taken a similar “back road” on this application process as he did with 4 Otis Place, which was recently cited by the Architectural Commission for unapproved exterior changes.

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