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Brookline zoning changes could affect Circle Cinema, Red Cab sites

Posted by Leslie Anderson  May 27, 2011 09:32 AM

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Town Meeting approved significant zoning changes Thursday night that members hope will give Brookline residents some leverage over two proposed large developments.

Both amendments address areas which have been the subject of heated controversy either recently — in the case of the former Circle Cinema site — or in the recent past — as in the former Red Cab site on Boylston Street.

In both cases, the town increases allowable floor-area and height, reduces parking requirements, but asks for other concessions.

Brookline officials hope that a hotel proposed for the cinema site, 75 percent of which sits in Boston, will be built partly in town to add needed tax revenue. The old cinema was built almost entirely in Boston, leaving Brookline with just the parking lot and some of the lobby.

By right, the owner of the former Red Cab site at 111 Boylston St. may be able to build a large structure on the property that would entirely shade nearby White Place, which sits across the MBTA D-Line tracks and downhill. The proposal passed Thursday would allow a developer to build a larger structure, but would require it to be set back in a way that would mitigate the shadows, make for wider sidewalks on Route 9, and guarantee a few other benefits to the town and abutters.

John Kibrick, an abutter of the cinema site, argued against the zoning changes there, saying that pedestrian safety, traffic, and other issues hadn’t been fully explored yet.

But Selectman Richard Benka countered that the town has no time to fully examine impacts, as the final Boston Redevelopment Authority public meeting on the Boston side of the project is June 13.

“If we don’t act, we risk the same development and the same traffic with no control over how that traffic affects Brookline,” Benka said. He pointed out that without permission to extend part of the hotel into Brookline, the developer will mass it closer to Kibrick’s Clinton Road home.

The Red Cab site on Route 9 was presented by supporters as similarly urgent. Development plans have been announced for the eastern section of the site, where 1993 zoning changes are in effect, that could mean a very tall building right up against the MBTA easement. A presentation on that plan is already scheduled for June 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

The zoning changes use a method called a “Sky Plane” to determine the maximum allowable shadow for abutters, and allow development higher than the current zoning as long as it keeps the shadows under that maximum.

“I am not thrilled with the results, as we still face the prospect of a very large building,” said White Place resident Merelice, who uses one name only. But, she said, she supported the zoning changes because “I have faith it provides protection for our neighborhood.” There was no opposition to the zoning changes for the Boylston Street site.


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