On Thursday, September 7, the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Zoning and Licensing Commission held its monthly hearing to consider the proposed deck in the rear yard of 7 Chestnut Street, a single-family dwelling currently undergoing extensive renovation. Only one variance was at issue, Rear Yard Insufficient according to Article 20, Section 4, as the owners are proposing construction of a small rear deck on the roof of an existing lower-level addition with stairs to the back yard. The homeowners explained that this construction is meant to provide access down to the yard and up to the kitchen, which is in the back of the house, allowing the parents to track their young children more readily from the back kitchen, as the only existing stairs are internal and towards the front of the house.
Participants’ opinions generally fell into three groups. Multiple neighbors spoke out in favor of the construction, stating their interest in encouraging families to live on the Hill, recognizing the challenges and opportunities of bringing up children in this open space constrained neighborhood. Two immediate abutters objected to the deck project, citing lack of privacy and loss of natural light. One abutter noted that three of his five windows open onto their patio, and that the new deck would overlook their currently private yard. In what was a very constructive discussion, a number of participants shared their modification ideas, including reducing the size of the deck, re-siting the stairs, and moving the railing in from the edge of the deck, creating a visual barrier that could filled with plantings or an attractive canvas installation, among other suggestions. Committee members were in favor of negotiation, particularly as the owners and opposing abutters did concede that some movement might be possible. As such, the Committee chose to defer a decision until next month, encouraging modifications to be proposed quickly in order for the opposing parties to come to a constructive conclusion.