The Zoning Board of Appeals this morning unanimously approved a proposed 27-unit apartment building next to the Fairmount commuter-rail station.
The Southwest Boston Community Development Corp and the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp. plan to spend $7 million to build 24 units for people making up to 60% of the area's median income and 3 apartments for people making between 60% and 80% of that amount. It will be built on a derelict piece of former industrial land.
The BRA approved the project in September.
The project pitted Mayor Marty Walsh and at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who supported the proposal, against state Rep. Angelo Scaccia, district City Councilor Tim McCarthy and at-large Councilors Steve Murphy - who lives in Hyde Park - and Michael Flaherty, who opposed it.
"It's the very definition of transit-oriented development," Dave McNulty, Walsh's liaison for Hyde Park, told the board.
Scaccia, however, called the location a public-safety menace. Children who live there will either be flattened by speeding trains on the Fairmount Line or be forced to breath in fumes from nearby car shops and a hazardous waste site - the toxins from which would be stirred up by passing trains - he said.
Scaccia said that for 150 years, nobody has built housing next to train tracks, and for good reason. He invited board members down to the area for a cup of coffee - and a tour of the location to see just how dangerous apartments "within feet of moving trains" would be.
"We shouldn't jeopardize people's lives," he said.
Ed. note: A tour along the Northeast Corridor, which cuts through Scaccia's district, would feature numerous houses and apartment buildings built within feet of tracks for trains that move far faster than anything on the Fairmount Line.
McCarthy, who said he strongly supports "workforce housing," said the site "is an awful location" for an apartment building because of its location next to the auto-repair shops, and urged the proponents to find another site for it.
Proponents, which included the Boston branch of the NAACP, said the project would not only mean new housing for people otherwise being priced out of the Boston area but would clean up a ramshackle parcel and help bring new life to the area around Logan Square and the train station.
Nearby resident Craig Martin, however, opposed the proposal, saying the property was rezoned in 2011 explicitly for mixed-use commercial development and noted the building has no commercial space. He also criticized plans to eliminate commuter-rail parking spaces at a time when the MBTA is looking to buy new trains for the line and offers reduced fairs to encourage ridership.
Other residents said the project would exacerbate traffic on the area's side streets, which they said are already used as cut throughs by drivers trying to avoid Logan and Cleary squares.
Mat Thall, who is heading up the project for Southwest Boston, said plans call for construction of a fence between the T parking lot and the building's parking spaces and said there has never been a case of a child being hit by a train on the Fairmount Line tracks near the station. "Transit-oriented development is not a new idea," he said.
He said the hazardous-waste site poses no threat to potential residents because the groundwater flow from the site heads away from the site and that if his group does find the existing car and carpentry businesses are putting out illegal emissions, it would move quickly to secure city or state action to stop that.
ZBA member Anthony Pisani made the motion to grant the required variance to allow residential units in the building's first floor, said the project showed "overwhelming benefit."