Homeless care project wins appeal

October 26, 2012
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PARKSIDE—A proposed care and housing facility for the homeless on Walnut Avenue has won an appeal of a lawsuit that would have stopped the project. The plaintiffs have until Nov. 1 to file a last possible appeal to the state’s highest court.

The developers, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), 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 formerly homeless people on the upper two floors. Pine Street Inn would manage the studio apartments, while BHCHP would manage the respite care facility.

“We’re delighted that we got such a clear ruling from the court,” JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal told the Gazette last week. “We’re looking forward to completely resolving this legal case and getting the development under way.”

“No [appeal] plans have been made yet. We’ve been in discussion about that,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Dan Wilson.

The Appeals Court ruled in favor of the project earlier this month. The plaintiffs have until the end of the month to file another appeal with the Supreme Judicial Court.

If the plaintiffs accept the ruling, construction can begin as soon as summer 2013, Thal said, with a hopeful opening date of late summer or early fall 2014.

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 last January.  The plaintiffs filed an appeal in February.

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 in the original suit 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 judge ruled to support the original ruling.

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.