By Pete Stidman
It was once a crime-ridden, trashed out lot, but
today a network of gravel paths is weaving through
newly cleared brush and finding the occasional
granite bench. Over $400,000 of work is nearing
completion at the Geneva Cliffs Urban Wild,
beautifying the intersection of Geneva Avenue and
Bowdoin Street. But just to the right of the park's
entrance stands what some see as a fly in the
ointment, the Star Five Oil Company, a decidedly
non-nature-friendly flaw in the overall vision.
In the eyes of Star Five co-owner James
Patterson though, the area would not be as quiet
and relatively crime-free as it is now if he and
his brothers hadn't moved their business there in
"We've been in the neighborhood a long time. We
employ a lot of the kids and keep them out of
trouble. They look up to us as role models," said
Patterson. "We keep this area clean. If you put a
park up there and don't clean up the neighborhood,
it's just going to be a meeting area for all kind
of drugs, it's just going to be a way to get away
from the cops."
Star Five's fleet of oil trucks are currently
the flashpoint of the disagreement. The
Inspectional Services Department has cited the
company for parking oil trucks on the wild several
times, as their permit to do so expired in 1998.
The company asked for a zoning variance to park the
trucks in December but was denied. Now a case in
the housing court brought by ISD is underway,
seeking an injunction to make Star Five pay its
violations and stop parking on the wild.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the park's
entrance a vacant piece of land has been put on the
market by owner Carol Drayton, tempting community
activists with the possibility of expanding the
park even more.
"Ultimately what we want is, if the city can get
its hands on Star Five and get Carol Drayton's
property, that whole area will be totally
transformed," said Davida Andelman, who is active
in both the Greater Bowdoin Geneva Association and
the Geneva Avenue Working Group. "There's a
possibility of making that whole intersection
Both the mayor's office and the Boston
Redevelopment Authority have met with Patterson
before, trying to help the company move, but
Patterson said none of the solutions he talked over
with them seemed economically viable. Now,
everything seems to hinge on the case in court.
The two parties are scheduled to appear
tomorrow, possibly to negotiate a settlement,
according to those familiar with the case, but the
ISD is said to be under orders not to settle. The
outcome, it seems, will depend on how housing court
Judge MaryLou Muirhead interprets a tangled legal
"When [former City Councillor Dapper]
O'Neil was there, when we got the permit, his
stipulation was that if the city didn't have any
complaint in five years it was grandfathered in,"
said Patterson. "But then they came 12 years later
and say you don't have a permit."
Patterson's attorney is arguing that a 1995
city-approved re-zoning of the property to allow an
office-building use gives Star Five the right to
"ancillary parking," and the trucks would fall
under this definition.
The ISD counter-argues that the approval the
city gave for the 1995 re-zoning was subject to the
permit Star Five originally got in 1993 to allow
the truck parking, and that expired in 1998. Star
Five failed to renew it, so ISD contends the
parking is illegal.
Local activist Davida Andelman added in a phone
interview that the community was never notified of
the 1995 zoning change, as is customary when such
changes are proposed.
Further court dates in the case have yet to be
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