(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
The board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously last night to approve the Hyde Park Neighborhood Strategic Plan, setting the stage for rezoning of the neighborhood to begin soon.
The vote concluded a 27-month process that at times grew contentious over issues such as maximum building heights and minimum parking requirements in the neighborhood’s business districts. Despite vocal opposition to some elements of the plan at recent community meetings, none of its critics attended the BRA board meeting.
The only resident to speak was City Councilor Robert Consalvo, who grew up in Hyde Park and represents the community. Consalvo said a couple of issues still needed clarification, but cited seven benefits to the community and praised the scheme as a “solid strategic plan that falls somewhere right in the middle” regarding the disputed issues.
Noting that the neighborhood had not been rezoned since the 1960s, Consalvo said the plan was “a long time coming” and called for a new zoning code that reflected contemporary uses and needs of the community and not those of nearly half a century earlier.
Consalvo’s only reservations concerned recommendations for Cleary and Logan squares. He thought the plan needed clearer language on mixed-use developments that would specifically require commercial uses on the first floor, and that there should not be a waiver of parking requirements for businesses of 5,000 square feet or less.
Marie Mercurio, a senior planner for the BRA, acknowledged that there had been pushback in the community against suggestions from the planning group to embrace transit-oriented development in the neighborhood. Because residents want to retain the neighborhood’s open spaces and suburban feel, the plan makes almost no changes to residential districts and relatively few in commercial areas.
In Logan and Cleary squares, the plan sets a height limit of 40 feet, though some residents had called for no more than 35, and increases the maximum floor-area ratio from 1.0 to 2.0, which Mercurio noted is actually less than that of several existing buildings in the squares.
Mercurio said that in the past, the squares had contained several more large buildings, and the greater density had helped create a more active shopping district. While some residents opposed that kind of density, she said, others embraced it.
“We heard a lot of nostalgia through our planning process that they wanted to bring it back to that vitality,” she said, stressing that any growth in the squares will be gradual, if it happens at all.
She highlighted the plan’s additional protections for open spaces, including a proposal for the city’s first Riverfront Protection Overlay District to protect public access and views of the Neponset River and Mother Brook. The plan also includes Neighborhood Design Overlay Districts “to preserve this beautiful character” of the historic homes in several areas.
Mercurio also said that while the final plan would require only one parking space per housing unit in commercial districts despite some requests for more, it would increase the requirement to two parking spaces in the residential districts, as many residents had asked. She said it was “a tough sell to get some people to go any lower.”
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(Boston Redevelopment Authority)