Residents, developer continue Summer Street battle
April, project attorney Rich DiGirolamo announced the developer had a
new plan for a "land swap" with the adjacent Dilboy VFW that involved
building a new facility for them and a new condo development. ~Photo by
By Tom Nash
ran high at a third community meeting on a proposed condominium project
at 343 Summer St. last Thursday, showing no signs of appeasement from
abutters who say the developer is still ignoring their concerns over
The Nov. 18 meeting, organized by Ward 6 Alderman
Rebekah Gewirtz, saw residents, city officials and project attorney
Rich DiGirolamo at times shouting over each other to make their points
heard. Despite concessions from the developer, an offshoot of Dakota
Partners, residents said they were largely unsatisfied with changes
made to the long-embattled project.
"I still think the size of
the building is inappropriate for the neighborhood," neighbor Sue Hill
said of the current 32-unit proposal during the meeting. "I've been
working on this for nine years and I feel like the neighbors aren't
The struggle began in 2002, when the project began
as a 14-unit condo project, and has since been the subject to two
lawsuits from neighbors and a third from the developer against the city
for blocking the removal of a public shade tree to make room for a fire
The fight over the tree essentially halted progress on
the project, leading to a potential lapse in the construction license
until the Zoning Board of Appeals granted an extension in earlier this
year, using justification residents say was faulty.
DiGirolamo announced the developer had a new plan for a "land swap"
with the adjacent Dilboy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post that would
involve building a new facility for them and a new condo development
they hoped would satisfy abutters.
Since then, the four-story,
30-unit condo project that was to include a ground floor of commercial
space has since morphed into an exclusively residential floor plan of
32 units, with the fourth floor decreased by five units in response to
concerns raised at a September meeting.
The majority of
residents' issues raised at that meeting, however, remained unanswered
two months later - especially regarding noise and privacy issues with
the new proposed VFW site that would directly abut residences.
VFW members and city officials stressed that the Dilboy Post needs a
new facility, as the current one does not meet Americans with
Disabilities Act standards. Residents are concerned about the
facility's potential use as a function hall and windows that face into
yards just a few feet away.
"The VFW is a member of our
community, and an important member," said Monica Lamboy, executive
director of Somerville's Office of Strategic Planning and Development.
"To think of veterans not being able to get into the post is really
Mickey Curtin, who served as the city's director of
Veterans' Services for 41 years, pointed out the current VFW gives much
of its use to community events.
"I think we've shown we're a
good neighbor," Curtin said. "We're not monsters. I think in 90 years
we've shown we're not here to infringe on anyone's privacy or safety
... I hope the neighbors would accept us for what we are."
also fended off accusations that the project would take parking space
away from the already tightly-packed Davis Square neighborhood. The
current proposal calls for 45 underground spaces for condo residents
and 68 for the new VFW post, which neighbors doubt will be sufficient.
Iappini, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit attempting to block the
Zoning Board of Appeal's ruling to extend the project's construction
permit, said the back and forth seems to be going nowhere.
"(This process) seems unnecessarily not straightforward, and it's really frustrating," Iappini said.
DiGirolamo said the developer is listening, but, "quite frankly, they have a prerogative."
DiGirolamo promised residents would have a chance to weigh in on the
plans submitted to the city in January, after resident Evdokia Nikolova
wondered allowed if they would be submitted over the holidays to avoid