Homeless care project is back in court

PARKSIDE—The lawsuit about a proposed care and housing facility for the homeless on Walnut Avenue is in appeal, after a failed round of negotiations between the developers and neighbors.

Both sides refused offers to settle out of court.

JPNDC offered to donate an undisclosed amount to the Friends of the Egleston Square Library and to the Franklin Park Coalition if the plaintiffs dropped the appeal.

“We felt strongly that it would be a better use for funds that would be used for legal fees to support organizations in the neighborhood instead,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) Executive Director Richard Thal said.

“The offer was very generous, but it doesn’t address what we oppose about the project,” plaintiff Walter Pollard said.

Pollard added that the neighbors had made a “substantial counter-offer” to the developers, but refused to elaborate.

A group of 11 residents filed a lawsuit against the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the developers in December 2010, hoping to halt the project. That case was decided in favor of the defendants in January.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed an appeal last month after negotiations with the developers, JPNDC and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), did not pan out.

In the original suit, the plaintiffs alleged that the developers wrongly claimed that the property was blighted, decadent or decayed to ease zoning approval of the project. The suit also alleged that construction of the facility would diminish local property values and increase traffic, demand for on-street parking, artificial light and noise.

The judge ruled in favor of the defendants both in standing and merit. Standing refers to the right to sue, not the merits of the arguments.

The appeal has been filed, but no court date has been scheduled.

“It’s made more complicated by the cut-backs in the court system,” Thal said. “I don’t think anybody knows what the timeline is going to be.”

The developers plan to make the former Barbara McInnis House at 461 Walnut Ave. into a respite care facility with 20 beds on the ground floor and 30 studio apartments for medically frail and elderly homeless people on the upper two floors. Pine Street Inn would manage the studio apartments, while BHCHP would manage the respite care facility.

The lawsuit plaintiffs are Pollard, Kingsford Swan, Jason Heinbeck, Catherine Fitzgibbon Pollard, David Nagle, Siana LaForest, Stephanie Heinbeck, Luis Prado, Alex Rhem, Kirsten Patzer and Judy Sullivan.

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