February 1, 2012
City Hall’s plan to combine Dorchester’s two zoning districts into one revamped district is entering its final phases.
The proposal would do away with a Dorchester Ave.-specific region and integrate the thoroughfare into the greater neighborhood-wide district. Managed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the plan will come before the BRA’s board next month ahead of a vote by the Zoning Commission in April.
At a community meeting last week at Fields Corner’s Vietnamese American Community Center, BRA officials outlined the plan for a crowd made up mostly of members of the project’s designated advisory group and a few interested residents.
According to BRA project manager Jeremy Rosenberger, the Dorchester Ave. district “was never intended to be a long term solution,” and that this new attempt allows the city to join the Avenue with the rest of the neighborhood.
“The mission was to correct inconsistencies that have occurred over the last 20 years,” Rosenberger said.
The plan will make few changes to how the neighborhood is zoned. Besides eliminating the Dot Ave. district, there are minor changes to plots in Savin Hill, Glover’s Corner, St. Marks and other areas.
“For the most part, if you’re residential, it’s going to stay the same,” Rosenberger said, adding that the same goes for commercial zones.
In Savin Hill, a parking lot at the corner of Pearl St. and Dorchester Ave. will be rezoned for light commercial use. Further down the Avenue, some older industrial areas near Freeport St. will be rezoned to allow more retail or residential use.
Changes to the St. Mark’s area would allow “real small scale mom and pop” businesses along with residential buildings, according to Rosenberger.
The plan also calls for changes on how commercial properties provide parking spaces. The proposal recommends removing the minimum number of parking spaces a business is required to provide, leaving the number of spaces to the business owner themselves.
It also alters the maximum parking allowed for business, limiting it to two spaces for every 1,000 square feet of business space. The Lower Mills CVS was used as an example of a lot found to be too big for the area and BRA officials said if it had been built under the new proposed guidelines, it would have had to go through an appeals process.
The BRA proposal also extends several of Dorchester’s 11 Neighborhood Design Overlay Districts, which are intended to protect historically and architecturally significant areas. A Landmarks Commission report in 1995 identified specific areas of significance and were implemented in the neighborhood-wide zoning district when it was rezoned in 2002. Since Dorchester Ave. was not a part of that district, the Commission’s recommendations were never implemented along the Avenue. This year’s project enables the BRA to include Dot. Ave in the NDOD plan.
When asked if property owners along Dorchester Avenue had been notified of the changes, Rosenberger said that all 1,200 owners had been notified by mail, but that he had had no direct conversation with any of them.