BZA rejects neighborhood appeal
No one could ever accuse Mark Haskins of not being persistent.
At a October 26 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, the Little High Neighborhood Association prez was at it again, arguing that Region Ten's Mews project off of Little High Street, a 40-unit affordable housing project for Region Ten clients and others with disabilities, should be open to public scrutiny.
The neighborhood association has already taken Region Ten to court twice and elicited the help of the ACLU to obtain information about the social service organization's plans for the Mews. Haskins contends that Region Ten has not been forthcoming with its plans for the Mews, and that the impact the project will have on the neighborhood warrants another Planning Commission review and a City Council vote. However, as mayor David Brown told the Hook last week, "We already issued a special use permit for the property. By law, that special use permit was transferred to Region Ten when the property was sold."
In this week's letters section, Haskins fires back at Brown.
"Two of our current City Council representatives, David Norris and Kevin Lynch, understand the public policy implications of the Mews project," Haskins writes, " and the importance of the community’s involvement in the discussion– Mayor Brown does not."
Haskins attempted to appeal the definition of the Mews project in its special use permit as offering only "coordinating services," insisting that the Mews was in reality an "adult assisted living facility." It's a definition that, if it were changed, would send the project back to the drawing board.
"All we want is a public review of this project," said Haskins, "which this project has never had. They are creating a program for an adult assisted living situation, and it needs to be reviewed."
However, James Cox, a lawyer representing the developer of the Mews project, criticized Haskin for using that argument to facilitate the neighborhoods desire to get a Planning Commission review.
"This apartment complex does not qualify as an assisted living facility," he said. "Not even close."
Cox pointed out that nursing homes fall under the definition of assisted living, where people receive constant daily care, whereas the Mews project was designed to encourage independent living.
After a contentious exchange with BZA chair, Kevin O'Halloran, in which Haskins complained that O'Halloran kept cutting him off, Haskins raised a formal objection about not receiving equal time to present his case before the Board. That settled, Haskin continued his argument.
"All the criteria for assisted living are there," said Haskins. "It depends on what definition of assisted living you're talking about. People there will need assistance, as Region Ten's own documents say, and that's assisted living."
Haskins received some sympathy from board members, who believed that Cox's definition of assisted living wasn't "as clear as Mr. Cox leads us believe" and that there was a "grey" area about how much help tenants at the Mews would actually need. Board members also commended Haskins and the Little High neighbors for the work they'd done to bring this issue to the public's attention.
In the end, however, the BZA voted unanimously to uphold the Mews project's definition as providing only "coordinating services."