Push-back from abutters stalls Cedar Grove rezoning

An attempt to rezone two parcels of Cedar Grove Cemetery land abutting Granite Avenue was put on hold on at a zoning hearing Wednesday after neighbors and Zoning Commission members aired concerns about the future use of the land.

Cemetery trustees are seeking a zoning designation change from burial ground status to one-family residential. The bid has the support of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the Cedar Grove Civic Association.

Charles R. Tevnan, president of the Cemetery’s board of trustees, filed an amendment application to alter “Map 5E, Dorchester Neighborhood District” by changing the existing zoning designation of approximately 28,016 square feet of land owned by Cedar Grove Cemetery and found to be inappropriate for interment from an open-space cemetery subdistrict to a one-family residential subdistrict.

One of the parcels, consisting of about 3,950 square feet, would be retained by the cemetery for possible use as leased parking for an abutting condominium building at 135 Granite Ave. The second parcel, about 24,066 total square feet, would be available for sale under the proposed zoning re-designation.

The cemetery sought the one-family zoning change because it was the most restrictive designation available, said Daniel McDevitt, a lawyer for the trustees who spoke at the hearing. McDevitt said the trustees hope to rezone the smaller parcel – which is currently being used for parking spaces for 135 Granite Ave. residents through a longstanding agreement between the cemetery and the condominiums – and gain revenue from payment for the parking places.

Proceeds from the sale of the larger parcel would go toward purchasing additional land appropriate for burial, McDevitt said.

The Cedar Grove Civic Association’s letter of support for the zoning change to the BRA said in part, “While we support smart, reasonable development in our neighborhood, we are concerned a drastic increase in density will lead to significant concentrations of vehicles and people.”

Any alterations to the land use would need to go before the city’s Inspectional Services unit and the Zoning Board of Appeals, which would give community members additional opportunity to comment on any development proposal. A prospective developer for the larger parcel “would then have to engage the community with their concept of what they see as a viable alternative for the land,” McDevitt said.

“It seems illogical to zone for single family when no one is going to build a single family on either lot,” said Jill Hatton, a member of the zoning commission. She said the intended uses for the larger parcel were germane to the map amendment request and should be clarified.

Sean Feeney, a resident of the 135 Granite Ave. condominium who was supported at the meeting by four others from the condo organization, said Dennis Keohane, a local developer, had come to the residents and told them he would be constructing 21 units on the larger parcel. 

“I don’t think the developers have been very forthcoming,” said Feeney, who added that there already were concerns about the impacts of a larger development on traffic.

McDevitt said categorically that there was no agreement between the cemetery and a developer, nor any specific plans for the site. The developer had unilaterally disclosed his plans about 10 months ago, McDevitt said, and the inaccurate statement has been “driving the bus” ever since.

There was sharp disagreement expressed at the meeting about the number of community meetings regarding the parcel-change bid, with cemetery representatives saying multiple groups held “an awful lot” of meetings, and condominium residents saying there had been anywhere from two to none at all. 

The commission unanimously moved to table the issue until next month and suggested there be more extensive communication between the cemetery and the condominium residents. Some on the commission recommended separating the zoning request for the two parcels, dealing first with the parking situation, and later with the housing possibilities.