Defendants: JPNC lawsuit boosts project costs

March 29, 2013
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The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s (JPNC) controversial lawsuit against the 161 S. Huntington Ave. apartment project is boosting construction costs by $560,000 a month, assuming it is eventually built, according to an affidavit recently filed by the defendants.

That claim was made as part of a debate about some Charlestown residents seeking to merge their lawsuits against a neighborhood council there with the JPNC lawsuit, because both involve the question of whether the councils are government bodies. A court hearing on the merger is slated for April 3, according to Kevin Joyce, the attorney for the Charlestown plaintiffs.

In a separate hearing on April 10, a judge will review the defendants’ motion to dismiss the JPNC suit.

JPNC chair Benjamin Day, on behalf of the council, is suing developer Boston Residential Group and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals, alleging that necessary zoning approvals for the redevelopment of the former Home for Little Wanderers complex were improperly granted. The JPNC claims it can sue because it is a government body, which the defendants deny.

In the two Charlestown lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege that the Charlestown Neighborhood Council and its redevelopment committee are government bodies that recently violated the state Open Meeting Law. The defendants deny any government status.

The defendants in all of the suits oppose merging the Charlestown and JP cases. Attorneys for the JP defendants call them “odd bedfellows” in court filings and note the JP and Charlestown councils have opposite opinions about their governmental status.

In another filing, Day opposed completely merging the suits into a single case, but said it could be good for the same judge to hear all three cases and get a unified opinion about the governmental status of neighborhood councils.

“Any decision is likely to implicate the multiple neighborhood councils across the City of Boston,” Day wrote.

Part of the reason the JP defendants oppose the merger is further delays to their development, which cannot go forward unless the lawsuit is resolved in their favor. The project’s contractor, John Moriarty, said in an affidavit that the original construction cost estimate was $56 million, but that he cannot hire subcontractors and lock in their rates due to the lawsuit. Due to market factors, construction costs are increasing about 1 percent a month, he said, and estimated that the project’s costs have already gone up $840,000.