By Robin Jovanovich
For weeks, residents of Oakland Beach Avenue, Thorne Place, and parts of Hix Park have felt that they were under siege. They endured three weeks of blasting to break up rock, which will enable a longtime developer to build two large houses on a lot that once held only one small house.
The blasting caused cracks in the foundation of one neighbor’s house which will need a foundation repair. It occurred 15 feet from the desks where Patti Yoon’s children were doing their homework.
Several neighbors took videos which recorded the deafening volume of the blasting.
The two new homes will loom over the homes of Nadine Waxenberg and Carlos Peraza, who live on Thorne Place.
Over 75 trees were removed before the original house was torn down. More trees were cut down last week. One large tree fell over and landed a few feet away from the Yoon’s house.
Martin and Mary Kehoe, Anne and Alan Gold, John and Kathy Grainger Hobbins, and Kek and Martha Knowles are among the other neighbors who have written City officials, spoken at Planning Commission, Board of Architectural Review, and City Council meetings asking their representatives to curb this and all future outsized, inappropriate development
For Kathy Grainger Hobbins, the massive height of the proposed homes at 97 and 95 Oakland Beach Avenue is a towering concern, as are future water runoff issues. “Our house has suffered water damage and our backyard has flooded from all the development on Sonn Drive in recent years.” She appealed to City Council members at their March 10 meeting to come by and walk the property and, hopefully, revisit the project.
Responsible development is what the neighbors are seeking. “This property doesn’t warrant two houses and two driveways,” asserted Waxenberg.
At the Council meeting, Martin Kehoe made a larger point: “It is your duty to protect citizens and we don’t feel we are being protected.” Carlos Peraza said, “I feel violated by what is going on.”
In a meeting with the neighbors this week, we gained an understanding of how much research on local laws and outreach they have done in an effort to drive change in residential development.
“Is it appropriate to build a nearly 6,000 square foot house that will loom over its neighbors?” asked Kehoe. “Is it permissible to take down trees and not replace them? What remedies are neighbors of a development left with once Zoning approves their application?”
The neighbors were heartened that the Mayor came by one day during the blasting. They were hopeful when he said he might put a moratorium in effect.
And they were encouraged further on Wednesday night when Mayor Cohn announced an addition to the agenda, “Item 9”.
“Keenly aware” of the impact of the Oakland Beach Avenue development on the neighborhood, he asked to set a public hearing for the March 24 Council meeting at which they would discuss a proposed six-month moratorium on subdivisions in steep slope areas, flag lots, and applications in which houses are not orientated toward the street to give the Council time review and legislate certain kinds of development.
“I put it on the agenda with some frustration as many of us have discussed it for years. We need to get going with it,” said Cohn.
After the Council voted unanimously to set the public hearing, Nadine Waxenberg reminded them that the project was continued to the next Board of Architectural Review meeting on March 22.