Repeal of the Hancock Village Neighborhood Conservation District Bylaw

Petitioner: Selectmen

Speicial Town Meeting, November 2017

The following overview is provided as background information for Warrant Articles 10-15 inclusive. It is possible that continuing conversations amongst the Town, abutters and the owner of Hancock Village as well as the State may result in some modifications to the Master Development Plan and/or associated documents. If any of these changes go beyond the scope of a warrant article, the Board of Selectmen will schedule a Special Town Meeting within the upcoming Town Meeting.

Brief History

Hancock Village, which consists of 530 residential units in Brookline and an additional 261 units in Boston, was constructed during the mid-1940s as reasonably priced rental housing for post-World War II veterans. Relying on the Garden Village model as a prototype, Hancock Village was intentionally designed to separate pedestrian and automobile functions, and to afford residents of the development with visual and physical access to green space. In addition to the internal courtyards and expansive green space throughout the development, a strip of green space was retained along the northern edges of the multi-family development to serve as a buffer for the tenants from the single-family homes abutting the complex.

Hancock Village remains essentially as it was developed seven decades ago - a thoughtfully planned community of two-story townhomes in Brookline and Boston amidst
a beautifully landscaped property consisting of undulating hills and puddingstone outcroppings. The so-called buffer area retained its single-family zoning (S-7) while the remainder of the Brookline site was rezoned to accommodate multi-family housing.

In recognition of the historic, architectural and cultural integrity of Hancock Village, the Town of Brookline and the City of Boston determined that the property is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Massachusetts Historical Commission concurred with that determination in 2012.

Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR), which purchased Hancock Village in 1986, has sought on several occasions to develop new residential buildings as well as additional parking for existing units. Each attempt has proven unsuccessful.

In 2011, Town Meeting designated the Brookline section of Hancock Village to be its first Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD), requiring that most changes to the existing buildings and landscaping secure prior approval from the Neighborhood Conservation District Commission.

CHR sought relief from both the Town's Zoning By-law and NCD regulations by applying for a Comprehensive Permit in 2013. Consistent with Chapter 40B of the Massachusetts General Laws, a Comprehensive Permit allows development that meets State requirements for subsidized housing to essentially override municipal by-laws unless a municipality has met its State-mandated regional share of subsidized housing. The most common method of establishing "regional" share is based on the "Subsidized Housing Inventory" or "SHI". Unless a community's SHI constitutes 10% of its total year-round housing stock, its permitting authority (in Brookline, the Zoning Board of Appeals) is extremely constrained in denying a Comprehensive Permit. The Town of Brookline's SHI is below 10%.

The Zoning Board of Appeals granted a Comprehensive Permit for The Residences of South Brookline (ROSB) consisting of what is referred to as the "Asheville Building" (a multifamily building consisting of 113 units located near the southern end of the property) and 11 additional smaller buildings in the buffer area for a total of 161 units. The Town and a select group of abutters appealed the issuance of the permit by filing suit against the developer, Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (MassDevelopment) - the State agency subsidizing the project, and the Town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Subsequently, on April 7, 2017, CHR applied for a second, separate Comprehensive Permit to construct "Puddingstone at Chestnut Hill," which, as currently proposed, would consist of 226 units of multifamily rental housing on 5.44 acres within Hancock Village near the Brookline-Boston line and across from the 100-acre Town-owned S. Blakely Hoar Sanctuary. The Comprehensive Permit application provides for a six-story apartment building (about 77 feet high) that would feature 186 units and 283 parking spaces within two levels of a partially below grade garage; three new 2.5 story townhouse apartments consisting of 12 units; the renovation of three existing two-story buildings with 12 units; and the addition of 67 additional surface parking spaces.

Facilitated Negotiation

All parties involved recognized that the size and potential impact of the redevelopment of Hancock Village, as well the considerable resources required to address two separate Comprehensive Permit processes, suggested that it was logical to explore the creation of a Master Plan addressing the property owner's desire to construct new units and parking for the existing units while at the same time addressing municipal and neighborhood needs to the maximum extent possible by avoiding the vicissitudes of 40B. This led the parties to enter into negotiations. The team representing the Town included the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, the Town Administrator, staff members from of the Building and Planning Departments as well as three representatives of the neighborhood. Representatives of CHR included: the owner, the project manager and associated consultants (housing and landscape architects).

Both the Town and CHR were guided by frequently competing goals, as follows:

The Town's overriding goals:
* Implement a Master Plan that would represent the complete and final development of Hancock Village - something the Town characterized as "one-and-done."
* Minimize fiscal impacts of increased development on the Town.
* Protect as much of the green space buffer as possible from development, with a particular focus on increasing setbacks from the backyards of homes on Russett and Beverly Roads.
* Minimize the visual impact of the Asheville Building on the neighboring singlefamily homes.
* Minimize traffic impacts on abutting residential streets, with an emphasis on the public portion of Asheville Road.
* Increase the Town's Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) to the maximum extent possible.
* At a minimum, meet the numerical requirement for creating subsidized housing, established by the Town's Inclusionary Zoning By-law.

CHR's overriding goals:
* Provide opportunities to meet a 0.5 Floor Area Ratio (FAR), established by the Zoning By-law as the maximum as-of-right buildout for the major part of (Brookline) Hancock Village
* Provide additional parking that is appropriately located on the Hancock Village site to address the lack of accessible and convenient parking for existing townhomes.
* Eliminate the Hancock Village Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD).

The promising initial progress in the negotiations led the parties to execute a Memorandum of Agreement (the MOA) outlining a comprehensive solution for Hancock Village. Pursuant to the MOA, the Town and the individual neighbors serving as co-plaintiffs in the appeal agreed to dismiss the appeal in exchange for CHR's agreement to negotiate a final Master Development Plan; work with the Town to refine it into zoning amendments, associated development and regulatory agreements and a deed restriction; and, if the necessary approvals were obtained at Town Meeting, develop the property accordingly. The plaintiffs then filed a dismissal of the appeal, with the express condition that they would be able to vacate the dismissal if the Master Plan did not receive Town Meeting approval. The initial timeframe had the parties submitting the relevant warrant articles to the 2016 Annual Town Meeting in May, but the complexity of the process and issues required more time than was originally budgeted.

Official Town Meeting Vote Select Board Advisory Board

No Action

No Action



Final Result:
Community Organization Recommendations
PAX Green Caucus
Official Text of the Article…