Public Comment to school comm.10.15.09

Public Comment to school comm.10.15.09

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Public Comment on Hancock Village made by Alisa Jonas to the Brookline School Committee, October 15, 2009 I am here to talk briefly about Hancock Village. This is an issue you apparently have been hearing about a lot already. Because Chestnut Hill Realty has met with Supt. Lupini and has presumably provided its perspective on the proposed expansion at Hancock Village, we felt it was important for those of us who live in the neighborhood to let you know of the opposition by many of us to the expansion. It appears that many of you have been receiving a number of emails. I’m speaking on behalf of a unanimous Executive Board of the SBNA, and I also reflect the sentiments of neighbors as expressed at an SBNA general meeting in May 2009. We are opposed to the proposed expansion because of the major negative impact it will have on our neighborhood. The negative consequence most relevant to you is of course the impact on the Brookline schools. Last year, 270 children attended Baker School from Hancock Village, and comprised 50% of the student population in the younger grades, and approximately another 50 attended BHS, for a total of about 320 students from Hancock Village. By almost doubling the size of Hancock Village in Brookline [which currently has 530 units – the proposal would bring the number to 1,000+ units], it can be expected that the school population will increase by another 300 or so students. Chestnut Hill Realty has stated that it has ...

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Public Comment on Hancock Village made by Alisa Jonas to the Brookline School Committee, October 15, 2009 I am here to talk briefly about Hancock Village.This is an issue you apparently have been hearing about a lot already.Because Chestnut Hill Realty has met with Supt. Lupini and has presumably provided its perspective on the proposed expansion at Hancock Village, we felt it was important for those of us who live in the neighborhood to let you know of the opposition by many of us to the expansion.It appears that many of you have been receiving a number of emails.Im speaking on behalf of a unanimous Executive Board of the SBNA, and I also reflect the sentiments of neighbors as expressed at an SBNA general meeting in May 2009.We are opposed to the proposed expansion because of the major negative impact it will have on our neighborhood. The negative consequence most relevant to you is of course the impact on the Brookline schools. Lastyear, 270 children attended Baker School from Hancock Village, and comprised 50% of the student population in the younger grades, and approximately another 50 attended BHS, for a total of about 320 students from Hancock Village.By almost doubling the size of Hancock Village in Brookline [which currently has 530 units – the proposal would bring the number to 1,000+ units], it can be expected that the school population will increase by another 300 or so students.Chestnut Hill Realty has stated that it has reduced the number of 3 bedroom units in the proposed expansion to reduce the possibility of a large influx of students, but even now, there are very few 3 bedroom units at Hancock Village, and the vast majority of students from Hancock Village come from 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, and we have been told that the proposed 1 bedroom units are much larger than the current 1 bedroom apartments. The reason why Hancock Village has so many children presumably is because of its uniquely well-situated location directly adjacent to a Brookline school.Thus we believe that it would be disingenuous to state that the proposal will not bring many new students.The per pupil cost of educating students in Brookline is approximately $15,000/yr.Therefore, even if Chestnut Hill Realty were to propose mitigation, it would unlikely be willing to pay the $4.5 million, plus an inflation factor, annually on an ongoing basis. [This cost estimate does not even take into account the multi-million dollar cost of building a new school, which may be the outcome of such a massive development.] And in addition to the increased school costs involved, there are the other costs associated with a 1,000-2,000 person increase in the number of Town residents for whom other Town services
must also be provided.Kara Brewton [the Towns Economic Development Director] has estimated that Hancock Village already produces a net financial deficit of approximately $2 million to the Town. But the financial cost is by far not the only issue for the neighborhood.By potentially increasing the school age population in the Baker area by such a sizable amount, one of 2 things presumably will occur in our neighborhood – either Baker will become the behemoth elementary school in Brookline, potentially twice the size of schools like Heath, or 100s of children, who under current conditions could walk to their neighborhood school, would be bussed to other schools.This particular problem is unique to our area, since we are so isolated from the rest of the town that options of walking to another neighborhood school do not exist. In addition to the impact on schools, this expansion is completely out of scale with the neighborhood in which it is located.We are a neighborhood of single family homes, with some townhouses and the little commercial area of shops at Putterham Circle, and Hancock Village. Hancock Village had been a golf course – but, in 1946, to accommodate returning WWII veterans in need of housing, the Town worked closely with the John Hancock Insurance Co. to come up with a plan to transform the golf course into housing that was denser than the rest of the neighborhood, but to do so in a way that would be attractive and fit in with the neighborhood – making townhouses situated close together, so that there would also be compensating green space. And to ensure that abutting homeowners would not be negatively affected by unattractive buildings, garages or parking lots adjoining their backyards, the original single family zoning was left untouched in a 60 foot strip along the abutting homes to provide a buffer zone of green space. A written agreement between the developer and the Town placed further restrictions on the portion of the property that was rezoned to accommodate multifamily housing – no buildings taller than 2 1/2 floors, only 12% of land could be built upon, and units had to be built in townhouse style. [This agreement was incorporated into the Town law that changed the zoning in the non-buffer zone area that was to become Hancock Village, and there is no indication that this portion of the law was ever intended to be repealed.]And the original owner took great pride in developing both such an attractive housing option that could also accommodate so many families.They even used Olmsted Associates to design the landscaping. The current owner is turning all this on its head – the ahead-of-its-time cluster housing [that is, housing built close together, thereby allowing for many units while at the same time providing
green space] is now seen as having “excess” open space, to be developed, despite making the property so obviously out of scale proportion with the rest of the neighborhood, producing a high density development in a low density neighborhood. And it is the low density of the neighborhood that is precinct 16s attractiveness.We dont have the public transportation, neighborhood parks, shops, movie house, and other such amenities that other parts of Brookline have.The lower density and green space is our strength. With regard to the buffer zone, Chestnut Hill Realty would like to turn that park-like setting into a parking lot.The previous owner had gone before the Zoning Board of Appeals twice to obtain the variance needed to allow the building of a parking lot on this single-family zoned land, and was rejected both times - and in both instances, the Boards decisions state explicitly that the building of a parking lot would contravene the intent and commitment to the neighborhood to provide a buffer zone. The proposed development, adding anywhere from 750 to 1,000 new cars to the neighborhood also would have a major impact on traffic in a school zone, and furthermore is adjacent to the Hoar Sanctuary and its wetlands, which have already experienced overflow problems from the already existing development. Appropriately developed land use is possible.Several years ago, Bob Basile purchased the Church of the Infant Jesus and the adjacent woodlands and built attractive townhouses that matched the scale of the neighborhood.Now of course many of us might have ideally preferred keeping the woodlands, but I do not know of a single person who opposed that development. This development is so massive, it is not comprehensible to us that accommodating it makes any sense. [Chestnut Hill Realty is not proposing any changes to the Boston side of Hancock Village. Several years ago, it proposed building a high rise apartment building on that property.Many neighbors spoke out in opposition and the proposal was denied by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as being out-of-scale with the neighborhood.]