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Digital billboard, new development raise concerns in Dorchester

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 16, 2013 06:48 PM

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A new development and the potential conversion of two static billboards to digital were hotly debated at a recent meeting of the McCormack Civic Association.

On Tuesday night residents gathered to hear from the Greater Boston Food Bank about its push to convert the two static billboards currently located on the top of its Newmarket area building to digital.

Representatives from RSA Media, the company that maintains the billboards, and the Greater Boston Food Bank, said the conversion would increase revenue for the non-profit organization and provide space for community and emergency broadcasts.

“It’s a situation where good is coming from it and it allows us to take care of our own community,” explained Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the food bank.

D’Amato estimated an additional $33,000 in revenue could be generated by the conversion, which would go towards the food bank’s programs.

The two billboards, which are visible from I-93 and South Boston, are located in a commercial/industrial area and are not near any residential structures. If the conversion were to be approved the size, shape, and positioning of the billboards would not change.

If the Greater Boston Food Bank were ever to leave its 70 South Bay Ave. location the permits for the billboards would go with it.

Residents expressed a number of concerns about the conversion, including driver safety and setting precedent.

Last month the group heard a proposal to convert a Von Hillern Street billboard to digital.

Desmond Rohan, a member of the association’s board, also added that the group had opposed the initial construction of the billboards back in 2010.

James Lack, president of RSA Media, however, contended that the digital billboards were safe for drivers and that the proposed billboards would follow Massachusetts’ guidelines.

“One of the things the state of Massachusetts did was conduct a four-year study about safety and crashes,” said Lack. “The study found it does not have an impact.”

Seventeen of the association’s members voted to remain neutral on the proposal and 17 voted to oppose it.

The conversion will also be vetted by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which is expected to discuss the matter October 22. The public hearing includes testimony from residents, elected officials, and proponents.

The Andrew Square Civic Association in South Boston also discussed the matter at a recent meeting and voted to oppose the proposal.

Enterprise Street/Clapp Street Development

Developer Bob Doyle was also before the association Tuesday to pitch a two phase project that could bring 18 units and 28 parking spaces to Enterprise Street and Clapp Street. Although Doyle does not own the property, he said he has an option to purchase it.

“I looked at this site and I said, ‘I can take a blighted building and help build up the community,’” he said. “We’re not asking for anything that’s denser than what is already in the neighborhood.”

The project, which would be split because of partial contamination to the site, proposes combining parcels at 8-10 Enterprise St. and 21-23 Clapp St. for the construction of three buildings.

The first phase proposes constructing two four-story buildings on Clapp Street with four units in one building and five in the other. Parking would be located on the first-floor and the fourth-floor would be recessed. The first phase of the project would also include the construction of an additional at-grade parking lot for a total of 28 spaces.

The site poses a unique challenge because of a Boston Water and Sewer easement that runs through the Enterprise Street side of the property and restricts the construction of residences on it. The at-grade parking lot would, however, be positioned over it, which is allowed.

The second phase would also include remediation at the Enterprise Street side as well as the construction of a three-story building on Enterprise Street for nine units.

Doyle said depending on the market the two Clapp Street structures could be rentals and the Enterprise Street property could be condominium units.

Of the overall 18 units, 12 would be two-bedroom units and six would be three-bedroom units.

Resident opinions were mixed on the issue. Some said any construction in the area would be a benefit to the community, with others saying the project was too dense.

“The Dorchester Historical Society opposes this project because of the density,” explained Peggy Mullen, an area resident and member of the nearby Dorchester Historical Society's board. “The historical society would like to see Enterprise Street developed…but the argument that something is better than nothing doesn’t fly.”

Others said they support the project, but put an emphasis on home ownership.

“I’m in favor of a building going there, but you have to be aware about who moves there. I’d prefer condos,” said Kevin Tyo.

A few also expressed concerns about how attractive the new residences would be to prospective tenants, especially with their close proximity to an auto body shop and other industrial uses.

“It has to be your responsibility to let the potential tenants know what’s around them,” explained Millie Rooney, a member of the group’s board.

A Zoning Board of Appeals hearing date has not been set for the project, according to Tim Johnson the project architect.

At Tuesday’s meeting nine voted to support the proposal and 17 voted to oppose it.


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