Update on development threats - July 2018
Season’s Greetings! Thank you for the past and continuing support of the 64 Allandale case. This end of year email provides a recap of the lawsuit history and information on events since the last posting in Sepember.
In March 2017 Allandale St abutters filed a lawsuit challenging City zoning approvals of the 50+ variances needed to build an 18-unit townhome development at 64 Allandale next to the Allandale Woods. The site is zoned single-family residential.
The adjacent Springhouse Senior Living Community has brought a separate lawsuit challenging these variances. The Springhouse lawsuit includes arguments addressing 64 Allandale project harm to the bordering conservation area (established by Springhouse as part of their development approvals).
In September, Allandale St. abutters survived an initial challenge to their standing brought by the City of Boston.
The developer has now provided alternative proposals to Allandale Plaintiffs and members of the public including Springhouse residents.
In early December Coalition representatives reviewed and discussed these proposals; Springhouse residents have independently considered the proposals in order to advise their Board.
Copies of the proposals and a summary of the Springhouse meeting are linked below (Please note that the option labeled "As of Right" is the developer's interpretation and not a certified zoning-compliant site plan.)
Notes from the Wonder Group Meeting at Springhouse Nov. 30th
Option A (18 Unit)
Option B (“As of Right”)
Option C (Urban ”Farm”)
The position agreed on among the Coalition is that the developer’s effort to present alternatives is welcome and that, among the alternatives, only a single-family, zoning compliant option can be the basis for further negotiation, as the others all have density far in excess of what is allowed in the Allandale neighborhood district.
The Coalition agreed that this position should serve as the baseline for further discussion with the developer leading to a mutually agreeable development plan at 64 Allandale, but if this resolution does not occur, the Coalition is fully prepared to continue financial support of the pending lawsuit.
The Coalition's position was communicated to the resident plaintiffs. The Coalition's position is advisory and is not binding on the resident plaintiffs. There will be further updates if any further discussion between resident plaintiffs and the developer through their respective attorneys results in a new public site plan. Should Springhouse residents release a public position, this will be forwarded to the Coalition email list.
Any comments or questions on the above or requests to join the Coalition email list are welcome; please direct them to the Allandale Coalition information email: email@example.com
The wide support in protecting Allandale Woods and the integrity of residential neighborhood zoning has been essential to this sustained effort. Thank you and best wishes for the holidays and the New Year.
City's Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Denied; Ruling Allows Allandale Lawsuit to Proceed
On September 18, 2017 Judge Paul D. Wilson of Suffolk County Superior Court ruled on the City of Boston’s Motion to Dismiss residents’ lawsuit challenging zoning approvals for the 64 Allandale St. project. We received the ruling late last week and are now able to provide an update.
Judge Wilson has denied City’s motion to dismiss resident’s lawsuit. The CIty argued that residents lack “standing” to bring the suit and that harms identified by residents are not protected by the zoning code. The Court did indicate that natural resource issues must be argued separately and found that project approvals were not "spot zoning".
To recall, 18 townhomes have been proposed on 2 acres of land in the single family residential district along Allandale Street. The property borders Allandale Woods Urban Wild, a significant ecological area with wetlands, forested uplands and a vernal pool. City granted 50+ variances for the project in December 2016.
While not final disposition of the case, the Court’s ruling allows the suit to proceed, a major victory for resident Plaintiffs and all Allandale supporters. The parallel lawsuit by Springhouse Senior Living Community is not affected by this ruling and remains pending.
An event to thank supporters is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, November 5, 2017. Please mark your calendar and stay tuned. Details will be provided soon.
By necessity, fundraising will continue until the suit is resolved, which could require as much as another year. Wide community support has been essential to sustaining this effort and the many legal fund donations are gratefully acknowledged.
For those able to contribute, donations of any size are welcome. Please send checks payable to "FoAW Coalition" by mail to:
Jacqueline Lees, Treasurer
100B Allandale Street
Jamaica Plain MA 02130
Further details on the lawsuit are provided below.
Possible Next Steps on the 64 Allandale Residents’ Lawsuit
What happens next will depend chiefly on decisions made by the developer and the City. Next steps might include:
1. Motion for Summary Judgment: A request that the court make a final disposition based on additional arguments submitted such as affidavits and case and law citation. Summary Judgment requires that there be no dispute as to case material facts.
2. Full Trial: Final decision by the court after making determinations as to any disputed material facts and on consideration of all documents submitted and information presented at the hearing.
3. Decision by Developer to Withdraw The Project.
Plaintiffs have indicated that they will be conferring with their attorneys and are fully prepared to respond to any contingency.
Lawsuit to Now Focus on Zoning Issues; Wetland and Related Natural Resource Protections to be Addressed Separately.
The Court did not accept all arguments advanced by residents, ruling that City approvals were not “spot zoning” and residents may not include concerns of harm to Allandale Woods within a zoning lawsuit.
The decision stated that natural resource concerns should be addressed by action under the Wetlands Protection Act, which in Boston is enforced by the Conservation Commission.
The Conservation Commission has on-going jurisdiction for the 64 Allandale project, but the zoning lawsuit has put continuing Commission review on hold.
Residents retain the ability to participate in future Commission proceedings and to enforce Wetlands Protection Act provisions via administrative review and court action, should that be necessary. This eventuality is likely months away, if it in fact comes to pass.
Importantly, the Springhouse suit addresses potential harm to Allandale Woods. Springhouse legal interests arise from the Conservation Restriction it granted to the City for the Woods bordering 64 Allandale.
Protecting land granted by Conservation Restrictions from impinging development is an ongoing effort throughout Massachusetts, New England and nationally.
Goals of the Residents’ Lawsuit
At the hearing, the City’s attorney represented to Judge Wilson that residents seek to stop development of housing at 64 Allandale. This claim is of course not accurate.
Our consensus position has been communicated clearly during many hearings and meetings and has not changed since July 2015, when the townhome project was first announced: we do not oppose new housing at 64 Allandale, but any development must proceed within community plan rules and must fully protect natural resources within the bordering conservation area.
Rather than favoring luxury housing, the City should focus on providing needed affordable housing, directing density to suitable locations near public transit and walkable main streets.
Drawing on the Allandale experience and examples from elsewhere in the City, we have recommended that the City create a transparent and fair development process that respects neighborhood input and concerns.
See for example the Green Street Renters case in Jamaica Plain: https://www.gofundme.com/green-st-renters-legal-fees
While some of these goals represent emerging understandings about sustainable city development and community participation, others are embodied in the City’s zoning code and community plans, and thus may be brought forth during the next phase of the lawsuit.
After 2+ years of effort, the court's decision means we are near the point at which the 64 Allandale case will be independently evaluated for compliance with the law.
This sustained effort would not have been possible without wide community support, consisting of comment letters, testimony at hearings and financial contributions to the legal fund.
As we now enter a potentially decisive phase, continued involvement and participation is especially important. Please consider a contribution of any size and plan to attend our November 5 event.
This post provides an update on the pending 64 Allandale lawsuit and news of events and issues related to Allandale Woods and the Allandale area, as mailed to the Allandale Coalition mailing list. For more information contact the Coalition directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
- September 7, 2017 hearing date now set for City of Boston Motion to Dismiss
- Residents motion to consolidate residents' and Springhouse cases pending; City does not object; Springhouse has yet to respond .
- Natural resource analysis for Allandale area property submitted to Boston Conservation Commission via "Request for Determination of Applicability"
- 90 Allandale and 1225 Centre future development remains pending
1. 64 Allandale
A hearing on the City of Boston Motion to Dismiss residents' lawsuit has been set for Thursday, September 7, 2017. Link to the Notice : http://bit.ly/2qGFjfy
City argues that residents lack standing to bring the case and that approvals of the 18-unit luxury housing development do not constitute spot zoning. Links to the City's Motion and residents' response are provided below. This is not a hearing on the underlying issues of City project approval, but only on the City's Motion to Dismiss.
Links to all case materials thus far:
Residents initial complaint : http://bit.ly/2ofbIXR
Springhouse initial complaint : http://bit.ly/2nMLxvY
City's Motion to Dismiss : http://bit.ly/2oeRzku
Developer Answer to complaint: http://bit.ly/2pUIhA4
Residents Reply Memorandum: http://bit.ly/2qhd3Q4
Residents Motion to Consolidate (as prepared): http://bit.ly/2rbrBB9
Residents Memorandum in Support of Motion to Consolidate (as prepared) : http://bit.ly/2rabNh4
Court Notice of Hearing: http://bit.ly/2qGFjfy
2. Lawsuit Fundraising
Thanks to all who have contributed thus far and to Allandale Farm for its support and Kelleher's Bar and Grille for hosting our kickoff event. Donations are still welcome during the interim period; checks may be made out to "The FOAW Coalition"; all are encouraged to visit the Farm and Kelleher's throughout the summer.
100B Allandale Street
Jamaica Plain MA 02130
Comments or questions on the effort are welcome; updates will be provided as events proceed.
3. Related Allandale Developments
90 Allandale, a two acre site adjacent to 64 and Allandale conservation land, is being marketed by a private offering. This site will likely be evaluated by investors as a potential luxury housing development site with density beyond that allowed by the existing community plan. The listing agent asked that offers be submitted by April 27, 2017.
As of Friday May 19 there is no indication that acceptable offers have been submitted. While prevailing opinion is that purchase for development is unlikely while the 64 Allandale case remains unresolved, possibility remains that a speculative developer might move forward with the property.
Investigation of Allandale Natural Resources
Following up examination of natural resources begun during the 64 Allandale process, the City's wetland consultant investigated possible water flow connections at City conservation land and the bordering residential property.
The investigation included a "dye test" whereby benign green coloring was introduced at an up-gradient location and downstream observation points monitored to determine whether connections exist as evidenced by appearance of the dye.
Link to full package of material submitted to Conservation Commission as a "Request for Determination of Applicability" : http://bit.ly/2qDjKhU
Reply of land planning firm retained by 90 Allandale : http://bit.ly/2rALkdH
The Conservation Commission hearing on the "Request for Determination" will be in June; hearing date not yet confirmed.
1225 Centre Street.
15+ Variances Sought for 8 Units; No Abutter Meeting Yet Scheduled by Mayor Walsh's Office
1225 is the former gas station site between Sophia Snow and the Spaulding building. Now vacant, this small parcel is an especially significant property for Allandale Woods as it includes wetlands and borders a vernal pool.
A proposal for 8 housing units has been filed with the City. The proposal requires multiple zoning variances and Development Authority, Conservation Commission and Parks Department approvals. We calculate that no more than 1 unit may be built on the property under the existing "Conservation Protection District" guidelines. We will provide updates as the City process moves forward.
4. Events. Other Updates.
While many are familiar with the history of properties along Allandale, it's useful to recall that present-day Allandale Condominiums and Springhouse Senior Living were successfully developed only after lengthy and at times contentious negotiation and the rejection of initial proposals.
The basic principles that guided past development and preservation decisions along Allandale remain true today.
Those involved held firm to baseline requirements - site-appropriate design, landscaped buffer areas and year-round screening, sensible, safe entry/exits and substantial designations for public conservation land - which have endured over time, retaining Allandale's unique qualities while providing for reasonable growth and private use of property.
Importantly, these successful developments were carried out via comprehensive and binding planning agreements rather than the spot-zoning and the "trust me" approach we have seen with 64.
Finally, emerging awareness of the value of walkable / bikeable communities, of directing density closer to transit and at blighted or underused sites, furthering affordable / workforce housing while protecting biodiversity and natural resources strengthen the rationale for appropriate development near and along Allandale and elsewhere.
Allandale Woods Coalition Sues City for Approving More Than
50 Variances To Build Million Dollar Condos Next to Boston Park
BOSTON (March 16, 2017) A broad coalition of neighborhood residents and groups are suing the City of Boston to enforce its own zoning laws, in order to protect one of its most pristine parks. A group of abutters supported by the Friends of Allandale Woods Coalition has filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court to stop the building of 18 - million dollar plus condominiums on a two acre lot, which is zoned for single family. The picturesque parcel with a 19th Century farmhouse overlooks Allandale Woods, a Boston Parks forest on the West Roxbury/Jamaica Plain border. In December, the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) approved more than fifty variances that waived nearly every building guideline specifically established for the scenic neighborhood.
Despite the opposition of six Boston city councilors and all of the adjacent neighborhood associations and councils, the ZBA approved the building of forty-five foot tall, luxury townhouses in exceptional density overlooking a large section of this eighty-six acre woods. In contrast with the rural character of the neighborhood, all front yard requirements have either have been waived by the City or approvedfor use as one of more than forty parking spaces. The ZBA OK’edonce prohibited basement units and approved not having sidewalks for the development’s narrow access road. The lawsuit states that the developer, the Wonder Group, had submitted “not one scintilla of evidence” to meet the very specific requirements for hardship that must be met to grant even one variance, much less more than fifty, on such a sensitive and controversial site.
The project claims of sustainability are greatly exaggerated as it is completely car dependent with more than two parking spaces allocated per unit, and the site is not near public transportation. The energy efficient design features of the structures are laudable, but rarely does a housing project come with such high external environmental costs and risks. Allandale Woods is the jewel of Boston Parks Urban Wilds program, which are properties managed for their sense of seclusion in the city. These towering townhouses will loom over and be seen throughout the eastern quarter of the woods effectively removing twenty acres from an urban wild’s primary purpose.
The proposed development is also immediately upslope of one of Boston last two vernal pool sites. These extremely sensitive wetlands are a major feature of Allandale Woods and had been previously described by Boston Parks as “ the most important ecologically significant site in the City of Boston.” The principal reason that there are only two vernal pool sites left in the City is they that are easily disturbed and destroyed. An abutter offered to pay for a hydrological study of the site as part of the permitting process, to which the developer declined.
The Wonder Group has promoted the project on its claims of being the first “net zero energy” development in Boston. However, the BPDA on its very own website lists a 14 unit project in Roxbury’s Highland Park neighborhood and others as the city’s first: http://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives/e-green-building-program
There are also concerns about affordability and the lack of affordable housing. Since the developer has stated that there would be more than $20 million in capital spending, the prices for these luxury townhouses will be well in excess of $1,000,000 each. Nearly six months after having the project approved by the BRA board, the developer reduced the number of units from 20 to 18, which under the City’s complex affordable housing formula allowed the developer to reduce the number of on-site affordable units from three to one.
The case will be argued and decided on the technical points of zoning law, but this particular project has become a political flashpoint in the neighborhoods as to whether zoning has any relevance to Boston city officials. Polly Selkoe, a member of the 550 household Jamaica Hills Association said, “If the ZBA can completely ignore the designated zoning uses and density allowed in a neighborhood and also fails to protect environmentally sensitive conservation land, then what is the sense of having zoning in Boston.”
The ZBA’s Allandale Woods decision is the capstone case on a mountain of neighborhood discontent over what is widely perceived as a developer-driven process that exploits insider relationships. Projects that dramatically exceed zoning are completely “pre-baked” between the BPDA and the developers before there is any meaningful public input. Many citizens openly question the value of showing up to public hearings.
“For those Boston citizens who feel shut out of the City’s development process, we want the Allandale Woods lawsuit to be their case – a citizen-based effort to protect a public park. Hopefully in the long run with judicial correction, the City of Boston will prioritize thoughtful planning with meaningful public input as an important priority,” stated Tony LaCasse, vice-president of the Friends of Allandale Woods.
For more information about Allandale Woods: 1. http://allandalewoods.org/ 2. https://www.boston.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/urban-wilds-jamaica-plain
Neighbors filled Kelleher's function room to capacity Sunday, January 29 2016 to support the Allandale Defense Fund. A coalition of residents and local organizations are preparing to challenge in court the CIty's zoning approvals for 64 Allandale.
Attorneys costs for this effort can exceed $25,000, but we are determined to bring the 64 Allandale case before the Suffolk County Superior Court for independent review.
As Protecting of natural resources, furthering sustainable, affordable development and upholding neighborhood zoning are interconnected and important issues, the coalition must fundraise to cover attorney costs.
Going into the Sunday event, the coalition has already reach over 30% of our fundraising goal.
We will continue our broad-based, community-wide effort until the defense fund target is reached, mindful that all donations represent individual and household funds that could be alternatively saved or spent on many worthy causes,
This is an all-volunteer effort and all funds raised will be used only for the legal challenge.
Donations are not tax deductible and are separate from any donation to Friends of Allandale Woods.
Many modest individual donations accumulate and will allow us to move forward effectively with the legal challenge.
Future events are planned. Check back often. Sign Up for notices.
In the meantime, checks in any amount are gratefully accepted. Please make out to "FOAW Coalition" and mail to:
J. Lees, Treasurer, 100B Allandale Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Each and every contribution is valuable.
We thank you for your past and continuing support and participation.
On December 13th 2016, Mayor Walsh’s Zoning Board of Appeal (BOA) approved an 18 unit luxury housing development at 64 Allandale Street on the Jamaica Plain/West Roxbury border. The site is designated for single family homes and directly borders the most ecologically sensitive part of Allandale Woods. Allandale Woods is a special place in Boston, containing one of the few natural ecosystems systems dating to the City’s pre-colonial periods.
In approving the project, Mayor Walsh’s BOA excused over 50 zoning violations with, we believe, no legal justification.
During City review, a coalition of individuals and community groups - beginning with Friends of Allandale Woods, Allandale area neighbors and residents of Springhouse Senior Living Community - worked together to advance alternatives that would protect Allandale natural resources.
We encouraged the Walsh administration to work within City rules and to focus its development efforts on affordable and workforce housing located closer to public transit, all within a respectful and legitimate community-based process.
Private-car dependent housing results in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions and is a significant contributor to harmful climate change. Increasing the inventory of luxury housing fails to address the priority need for affordable and workforce housing in Boston.
Following steps set forth by the City, residents participated in numerous public meetings over 18 months, gathered petitions, and sent many hundreds of letters to Mayor Walsh and his appointed City department heads at BRA/BPDA, Environmental and Parks Departments.
In this effort we were joined by area organizations ranging from Jamaica Hills Association and Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association to the Sierra Club, MassAudubon, Trustees of Reservations and the Arboretum Park Conservancy. Both Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury Neighborhood Councils supported residents and voted against the 18 unit luxury housing proposal.
District 6 Councilmember O’Malley and his at-large Boston City Council colleagues Flaherty, Presley, Essabi-George and Wu, as well as District 5 Member McCarthy, all voiced support of residents efforts at each step and before the Zoning Board.
We had hoped that the public process would result in a site-appropriate development plan, with a final resolution achieved by reasonable negotiation lead by Mayor Walsh. Unfortunately, Mayor Walsh ignored the community clear consensus, instead privileging a luxury housing developer over Springhouse seniors, hundreds of residents and the unanimous recommendation of all Allandale-area neighborhood associations.
The only modification recommended by the Walsh Administration and adopted by the developer was a reduction in the number of affordable units required for the project (from 3 affordable units to 1 affordable unit).
The developer did also relocate buildings away from the Allandale Woods border. However this was an involuntary re-configuration required to comply with Commonwealth of Massachusetts Wetlands Protection laws.
Believing that respecting communities, enforcing zoning rules and furthering sustainable development and affordable housing are interconnected, important issues, the Coalition must, regretfully, now challenge the City’s zoning approval in court.
Once Mayor Walsh’s Zoning Board issues its final ruling, we will prepare the necessary documents to place the 64 Allandale development before the Suffolk County Superior Court.
Please note: All donations to the "FOAW Coalition" Allandale Defense Fund are not tax deductible and are separate from donations to Friends of Allandale Woods.
As you may know, the 64 Allandale developer has prepared a modified site plan, reducing the number of units from 20 to 18. Details of the new site plan are now available a the BPDA project site.
A third community meeting to review the modifications has been scheduled on Monday November 7th from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Roche Community Center, 1716 Centre Street, West Roxbury.
Friends of Allandale Woods together with Allandale area neighbors and residents of Springhouse Senior Living Community prepared initial comments to BPDA in a recent letter, including a checklist of the unresolved issues for this project. As the letter details, the 2 unit reduction falls far short of the project modifications needed for development at 64 Allandale; major questions of natural resource protection, zoning compliance and sustainable development remain unresolved.
We encourage all who are able to email comments to the BPA. The public comment period for this revision ends November 14, 2016. Emails may be sent to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “64 Allandale : Oppose BPDA Approval”. Please copy the Friends at email@example.com
The comment may be as basic as “We oppose BPDA Board Approval of the 64 Allandale development until all unresolved issues are satisfactorily addressed”. BPDA anticipates bringing the revised agreement to its Board on November 17, 2016.
In other project updates:
- The zoning hearing is now scheduled for Tuesday, December 13, 2016, after the developer requested a postponement in late September.
- A recent JP Gazette article describes the parallel State of Massachusetts wetlands protection process in which residents are participating.
- We are fully committed to participation in the City process and will take all necessary steps to see that the unresolved issues at 64 Allandale are adequately addressed.
Thank you for your the past and continued involvement, as wide community participation is an essential part of our shared efforts.
As many have already learned, the 64 Allandale Street developer has requested the Zoning appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday, September 27, 2016 be deferred. The new hearing date is Tuesday, December 13, 2016. If you haven’t had a chance to write to the ZBA yet, your concerns really matter; details are on our website.
While residents are prepared to move forward to the zoning board for final decision, we hope the developer will now use this extra time and work with neighbors to identify a plan all can support.
Leading up the hearing, the unified support for residents among our elected local leaders has been heartening. We are grateful to District Councilmember Matt O'Malley, his District 5 counterpart Tim McCarthy and Matt's At Large colleagues Ayanna Pressley, Michael Flaherty and Anissa Essabi-George - all of whom affirmed their intention to support residents at the Zoning Board. In addition, we also had the support of the local neighborhood organizations (WRNC, JPNC, LNA, WREGC) and conservation organizations (Trustees of the Reservations, Sierra Club, Mass Audubon.
Mayor Walsh's office has assisted by covening the most recent community meeting and bringing back to the Mayor an accurate description of the many serious, unresolved concerns surrounding the 64 Allandale project.
In addition to the zoning issues, there is a parallel appeal now pending before the State Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). This appeal concerns how the Wetlands Protection Act should be applied at 64 Allandale. Residents continue to participate in MassDEP review. Our goal is to insure full protection of natural resources at Allandale Woods and on adjoining properties. The position taken by the Boston Conservation Commission, requiring developer compliance with Wetlands Protection Act, likely also weighed into the developer's decision to postpone.
As a result of this more than year-long process, the Friends of Allandale Woods has coalesced out of the looser network of neighbors, conservationists, and community members who enjoy the Woods and the neighborhood it anchors. We hope you have visited our website, allandalewoods.org.
We held a wonderful family walk in the woods last spring and two popular tours last Fall. We have begun to plan a fall event as well. We will keep you posted of these events, including in the legal processes mentioned above, through this website.
As expected, the formal "Abutters Meeting" to collect comments on the 64 Allandale development proposal drew a large crowd at Springhouse on Thursday night (9/22/2016). There was strong opposition to the proposal, even though the developer tried to portray the proposal as a trickle down solution to Boston's affordable housing crisis.
The next milestone for this proposal is the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, where the developer will try to get 60+ zoning variances approved. This appeal is scheduled for 9:30am on Tuesday september 27th at the ZBA Meeting (Room 801, Boston City Hall.) Everyone is encouraged to attend and make your opinions known.