Zoning Board seeks legal review of controversial River St. project

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) on Tuesday sent information on a controversial River Street condo project proposal to the city’s law department for review as the parties in the dispute await a decision on the proposed 4-story, 11-unit building.

Neighbors, who are adamantly against the new construction, turned out at the board’s meeting on Tuesday to press its members to block the project, which they say is too large for the 20,830-square-foot lot at 54 River St.

“The developers are claiming land that belongs to two direct abutters, a case that has pushed us into Land Court, and they’re using that strip of land for their floor to area ratio,” said Susan Lombardi-Verticelli, a resident who spoke on behalf of opponents.

A 7-unit condo building has already been built at 52R River St., replacing a structure that was torn down. Abutters argue that the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) erred in issuing the project proponents allowed use, or “as-of -right,” permits for the two buildings.

Lombardi-Verticelli said that the neighbors’ issues with the development include a violation of the property’s rear setback, and of its floor to area ratio [FAR: the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built], an overburdening of a shared easement, and the fact that the project in its entirety would violate Article 65.1 in the Zoning Code. 

“It’s about a four-and-a-half-foot strip of land that runs from number 5 to number 9 Taylor Terrace. You can also see that, given the zero lot line, they are literally building to the abutters fence line,” said Lombardi-Verticelli, gesturing to the site plans. 

Kim Thai, assistant commissioner of Plans & Zoning and Director of Policy at Boston Inspectional Services Division(ISD), defended the agency’s decision to issue a permit.

“With respect to the land dispute, it’s our understanding that there is an adverse possession claim that is occurring in Land Court concurrently,” said Thai. “However, we have reviewed it and even if they are successful with that claim it has no bearing on the building permit.”

Zoning board chairperson Christine Araujo moved that the matter be turned over the city’s law department for review, and the board unanimously approved the motion.