BHCA Zoning and Licensing Committee Votes not to Oppose Two Modified Proposals

The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Zoning and Licensing Committee voted Wednesday not to oppose modified versions of two proposals it had previously vetted last month.

The owners of a single-family townhouse at 3 Spruce St. and 5-7 Spruce Court – two adjacent single-family townhouses being converted into one single-family residence – have jointly proposed using existing and matching ironwork fencing to enclose the open terraces on their front lots, resulting in a “flush” façade for the buildings.

At last month’s Zoning and Licensing Committee meeting, the applicants jointly withdrew an earlier proposal to build a 5-foot wall to enclose their front lots, amid concerns from neighbors, abutters and committee members.

The current proposal requires variances from city zoning codes for the two buildings, which would both gain additional floor space and already exceed the maximum 2.0 FAR (floor-area ratio) for structures in the neighborhood. The planned fencing would also be subject to the approval of the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission.

No hearing dates have been set with the city’s Board of Appeals or the Architectural Commission on the matter at this time.

The committee supported a motion by a vote of 7-0-2 not to oppose the current proposal on the condition that the applicants enter into an agreement with the BHCA regarding the fencing and standard conditions related to construction.

Meanwhile, the owners of a single-family home at 33 Branch St. have proposed building a gazebo-style head-house, measuring 4 feet by 4 feet, to house a spiral staircase that would provide access to an open patio on the building’s second level.

The new structure would also provide natural light and a second means of egress to the room below, which was formerly part of the garage before being converted into additional living space.

The committee voted last month not to oppose the project on the condition that the roof of the head-house be opaque, although architect Frank McGuire said the applicants now wish to pursue other alternatives for mitigating light emitted by the new structure in the evening hours.

McGuire said the applicants are now exploring the “low-tech” option of installing a mechanized blackout shade for use at night, as well as the much more costly alternative of using glass in the head-house treated with a glazing that changes light transmission when an electric current is applied.

“The glazing in the skylight is wired to a timer, which blacks it out at night,” McGuire said of the second option.

Since the building already exceeds the 2.0 FAR maximum and would gain additional floor space, the current proposal requires FAR variances from city zoning codes, as well as a rear-yard variance because the head-house would directly abut a higher wall at the rear of the  lot.

No hearing date has been set with the city’s Board of Appeals to review the matter at this time.

The committee supported a motion by a vote of 8-0-1 not to oppose the currently proposed project on the condition that the applicant enter into an agreement with the BHCA regarding the installation of a mechanized cover for the head-house.

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