Sept. Update: lawsuit moves forward

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.

Conclusion

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.
Thank You!