A top aide to Mayor Thomas M. Menino intervened with city regulators to help an old acquaintance win approval to build 28 housing units and a YMCA in South Boston, city officials confirm, angering some neighbors who say the project is too big and lacks sufficient parking.
Developer Gregg Donovan’s project won approval June 13 from the five-member board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, several weeks after Menino aide Michael Kineavy called a meeting of top BRA officials in a City Hall conference room to discuss their concerns about the East First Street proposal.
Kairos Shen, the BRA’s chief planner, and James Tierney, the BRA chief of staff, met April 22 with Kineavy, Donovan, and Joseph Rull, a former top City Hall aide from South Boston now representing Donovan.
In an interview Tuesday, Shen said the meeting helped break an impasse over the development, prompting Donovan to provide the BRA with detailed information on the project’s landscaping and elevation, as well as parking plans.
“I was frustrated that I was not getting the necessary documentation on the project,” he said. “At the meeting, I made my position clear, that I wasn’t getting cooperation from the developer.”
Donovan, a South Boston developer for about 20 years, said he asked Kineavy, also of South Boston, for help only after concluding he was being “stonewalled” by the BRA and Shen in particular.
“I was trying to be as cooperative as possible,” he said. “But Kairos Shen and I couldn’t agree.”
Frances “Lucky” Devlin, a community activist and abutter to the site, said Donovan’s project violates the spirit of a 2011 zoning plan for the neighborhood, developed after numerous public meetings held over a period of about a year.
“It’s far too dense,” Devlin said, adding, “Now, the process does not seem fair, the way this has happened.”
She said she was unaware of Kineavy’s role until contacted by the Globe.
But Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Menino, said it is not unusual for conflicts with regulators to “get kicked up” to Kineavy, who heads the Office of Neighborhood Services.
“Some people get lost in the process,” said Joyce. “Navigating the bureaucracy can be confusing. The administration does this all the time for anyone stuck in the process.”
Kineavy called the meeting with the BRA’s Shen and Tierney to help the process move forward, she said.
The project, located next to the Exelon power plant on Summer Street, would include a gymnasium, locker room, and community rooms, as well as 28 housing units. The plans call for 40 parking spaces in an underground garage.
The development would replace an unused brick garage and empty lot. It would allow a continuation of new housing already being built on East First Street.
The project cannot go forward without approval from the Zoning Board. It needs variances for off-street parking, density, open space, and front- and side-yard setbacks, Shen said.
Besides the Zoning Board, the project’s final design also needs approval from the BRA.Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.