JPNC votes to settle S. Huntington lawsuit

By Emily Resnevic and John Ruch/Gazette Staff

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) voted to settle its controversial lawsuit against the 161 S. Huntington Ave. redevelopment at its Oct. 29 meeting.

The vote, conducted privately in an executive session, was unanimous, according to JPNC chair Benjamin Day, the lawsuit’s plaintiff.

The JPNC voted “to support in principle a settlement,” Day later told the Gazette. The council is still working out details with the developer, he said.

“[Settlement] discussions have been underway for some time,” said Larry DiCara, an attorney for the developer, Boston Residential Group.

Boston Residential Group plans to redevelop the former Home for Little Wanderers property into a large, dense complex of mostly market-rate apartments with high-end services. The plan was approved by the city over widespread local criticism for its expense, design and lack of historic preservation.

Last year, Day sued the developer and the City of Boston on behalf of the entire JPNC and with its support. The lawsuit alleged that the City’s Zoning Board of Appeal improperly granted zoning variances to the project without proper evidence. In the lawsuit, the JPNC controversially claimed to be a government body, making it capable of suing.

A judge threw out the lawsuit, saying that Day and the JPNC had no legal grounds to sue. But the JPNC filed an appeal that is still pending. The lawsuit has put the redevelopment on hold since December 2012.

The City is not involved in the settlement discussions, Mayor’s Office spokesperson John Guilfoil said, but added, “We are pleased that what we always deemed a meritless lawsuit is being dropped.”

“From the time the JPNC brought this suit against the Board of Appeal alleging that it has standing as a municipal board, we have consistently maintained that it did not,” Guilfoil said. “It is not created by any City statute or ordinance. The mayor and the City Council have no role in appointing it, and it does not act on behalf of the City.”

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), which also approved the project, is also not involved in the discussions, according to BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler. But, she added, the BRA is will to serve as a resource to either party to answer questions.

“We’re happy to see this outcome and that the project can move forward,” she said.

The vote to settle the lawsuit came at the JPNC’s first meeting with some new members following its biannual election earlier this month.

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