Four people living at 171 Maple St. in West Roxbury have sued the Zoning Board of Appeal over its approval of plans by their neighbors at 175 Maple St. to expand their house upward by adding a second floor and an attic.
In their suit, filed last week in Suffolk Superior Court, Vincent Bertrand, Debra Bertrand, Edward Zarrow and Carey Bertrand, who live in a two-family Victorian-style house, said the board's approval of plans by Colleen and Renzo Monzon to convert their bungalow into something larger would seriously harm them:
Among other things, the Project and the Decision and Variances that purportedly authorize the Project will have a significant and adverse impact on the Plaintiffs’ property by eliminating or substantially decreasing air, views, and light, decreasing privacy, increasing pollution within close proximity of Plaintiffs’ home, increasing density, reducing open space and harming the value of Plaintiffs’ property.
They also charge the board violated the state Open Meeting Law during the online meeting at which it approved, in part by refusing to let people who don't live on Maple Street speak, even though the property in question abuts land on Westover Street - and by refusing to let Vincent and Debra Bertrand because they had the same last name as Carey Bertrand, who did speak, even though they live in different units.
The 171 residents say there is nothing special about 175 that would cause the sort of hardships required for the variances the board approved:
The Defendants’ proposal would result in the doubling of the size of their home, a 100% increase in living space, with a FAR of .47. The real reason for seeking this relief is simply to make the existing building larger and not because of any “hardship” or any other unique quality of the property in question.
But the plans would cause hardships for them, they charge: Vincent Bertrand works at home in an office that faces 175 and that would lose much of its natural light should that house go upward just 15 feet away, while Zarrow and Betrand's two children share a second-floor bedroom that would lose its natural light. The second-floor couple's two bathrooms also get their only natural light from that side of their home. Also:
According to the Defendants, the Project would include the addition of a gas fireplace which would result in a two foot bump out of the wall in the living room on the side of the Project that shares a property line with 171 Maple Street. The exhaust from the gas fireplace would vent directly towards the back door egress of Plaintiffs, Edward and Carey’s, apartment. The exhaust would be venting carbon monoxide. The residences are only 15 feet apart.
They also say it's unfair that the Monzons get to take advantage of an illegal furnished basement that a previous owner put in - and charged the Monzons would turn the proposed attic into living space, even though its height isn't enough to support that. At the zoning-board hearing, the Monzons said they would unfinish the basement as part of their project to create a house where they could raise children; they said the attic would be used just for storage.
In their complaint, the 171 residents ask that a judge annul the zoning-board decision and grant them their costs and attorney's fees in bringing the case.
Watch the zoning hearing: