The Board of Selectmen last night discussed two related warrant articles set for the Fall Town Meeting: Article 5 gives the town authority to set up a Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD), and Article 6 turns Hancock Village into the one of the first NCDs.
A neighborhood conservation district would create a neighborhood commission responsible for maintaining the "character of the neighborhood," and would require any developers to earn a certificate of appropriateness from that commission before building or demolition begins. The commission would be made up of Brookline Preservation Commission members, as well as members appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
Warrant article 6 focuses on creating a neighborhood conservation district around . The area has been eyed by Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR) for development, adding over 400 homes to the neighborhood. If passed, any plans CHR files would need to be deemed appropriate by the newly-created Hancock Village neighborhood commission before building.
Neighbors, who have been concerned about prior to this warrant article, had questions about the article. The meeting was not a public hearing for the article, but the Board did listen to comments from those in attendance.
Town Meeting Member Alisa Jonas observed that the discussed development would increase the density in Hancock Village many times: raising it from six dwellings per acre to 22 dwellings. Others felt the article lacked specifics.
"Legally, when you talk in terms of review, and speak about 'oversight,' 'administering' and 'regulating,' those are very vague terms that have no real binding force." Precinct 16 Town Meeting Member Regina Frawley asked, "So, where's the Bite?"
Chestnut Hill Realty, the group attempting to develop the area, had not heard about the warrant article prior to filing.
"We were surprised, not that it was filed, but how it happened. There was no consultation with Chestnut Hill Realty, when it is the sole subject of this warrant article. It was surprising, but we’re going to have to get over that," attorney James Shea, representing CHR, commented.
Shea also noted that the discussions on the neighborhood had been "fairly dominated by neighbors." In response to a neighbor's assertion that the group is lying, he assured the board that CHR is willing to talk and are not lying.
“This [article] is a blunt instrument. I don’t think it helps," Shea added.