Friday, May 24, 2024

The saga of the Wyman Street curb might have ended Monday, but the owner of the giant lot who is seeking that second driveway instead asked the City Council to delay a vote by a week. He may regret it; after he spoke, a neighbor opposing the curb cut focused attention on “irregularities” in his application: too few signatures in favor, and therefore too few to justify its progress through the city’s approval system.

It’s not quite fair to call it the $11.4 million curb cut, but the lengths to which lot owner Eric Griffith will go to get it for the use of occasionally visiting in-laws makes it begin to seem like the value of his property (assessed at that amount) hinges on it. This is the second time he’s asked for a delay from the council.

Griffith’s latest step, along with claimed attempts to keep meeting with neighbors and win them over:

“We’ve been asked to request that this matter be deferred for one week so that we can put in writing our intention to use this driveway for passenger vehicles and that we will direct any service or landscaping vehicles to use the driveway on Raymond Street,” owner Eric Griffith said.  The lot is 53,667 square feet, straddling the block from Raymond to where the curb cut is proposed for a cul-de-sac called Wyman Street.

Griffith hoped Avon Hill residents opposed to his curb cut request would change their mind, but construction of his gigantic single-family home and the auxiliary unit has been going on for four years. Neighbors’ nerves are frayed and their suspicions aroused. Forty have signed a letter to the council against the curb cut, and several have railed against it at council meetings.

Griffith has said his 13 nearest neighbors didn’t oppose the curb cut — ostensibly the same 13 identified by the city’s Inspectional Services Department as the ones needed to sign off on the project for its own departmental approval. If the application is approved by Inspectional Services, it is sent on to Traffic and Parking, then the Historical Commission and the Department of Public Works. If approved by Public Works, the application goes to the City Council for its approval. The council has it now.

“There have been some irregularities to this process,” Avon Hill resident Margot Welch told the council Monday.

Griffith’s application included only four names, not 13, Welch said. A look at the file in confirms her testimony.

The four signers included Griffith himself and two opponents of the curb cut — Lowry Pei, of Bellevue Avenue, who confirmed Wednesday that he signed in support July 5, but changed his mind after Welch spoke with him; and Judith Parker, who lives on Wyman Street directly across from where the curb cut would go. She filed a letter Aug. 18 saying she was against the driveway but, giving the sense she was resigned to it, hoped Griffith would discourage frequent use of it.

“I would strongly recommend that you place a ‘Private Driveway’ sign at the entrance to discourage others from using it,” she wrote Aug. 18.

She seemed resigned to it, as her letter says, “since the commission has accepted your curb cut.”

Parker didn’t respond to a message left Wednesday asking what she meant by “the commission.” The woman answering the phone at Parker’s home thought it referred to one of Avon Hill’s historical groups, which would have to be the case: City rules say those signed forms from neighbors must be included in an application “to receive a review from Inspectional Services” and start the approval process, and the last of the four signatures in the file belongs to Griffith, dated Sept. 5.

Inspectional Services signed off on Griffith’s plan Sept. 22; the Historical Commission on Sept. 28; Traffic and Parking on Oct. 5; and Public Works on Oct. 19, according to the file.

Griffith has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. In November he declined to speak on the issue beyond remarks made during public meetings, saying he preferred to speak with the opposing Avon Hill residents privately.