Complaints Filed Against Project on Washington St.

Monty Gold, the owner of the building at 3377 Washington St., home to Turtle Swamp Brewing, has filed another suit against the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) decision to approve the affordable senior housing project at 3371-3375 Washington St. This lawsuit comes a little over a week after settling a suit regarding the affordable housing project at 3368 Washington St.

This time, Turtle Swamp Brewing has also filed its own suit against the decision, and is a direct abutter to the proposed project.

The brewery was not party to the lawsuit against the project at 3368 Washington St.

The project at 3371 Washington St., proposed by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), along with New Atlantic Development, is to build a five story, 38 unit affordable senior housing development on the site, as well as create a new commercial space for El Embajador restaurant, which currently occupies the space but has faced threats of eviction in the past.

In a complaint filed on May 21, Turtle Swamp Brewing (via its attorneys) says that “in short, this development is too big, too close to its neighbors, and does not provide parking or loading areas sufficient to serve the Project. These Code provisions are intended to protect neighboring land uses and the sheer number of variances needed, and granted, amounts to a complete re-zoning of the Project parcel in violation of Massachusetts law.”

 In Gold’s separate lawsuit, it states that “…The Plaintiff contends that the Board exceeded its authority and made a decision that was arbitrary and capricious which did not meet the legal standard for a variance.”

 Additionally, it states that “…the Project will result in adverse impacts to Plaintiff’s Property during construction resulting in harm to the operation of [Turtle Swamp Brewing’s (TSB)] business. The development will adversely impact Plaintiff and TSB’s utility service and after construction traffic and parking impacts will harm TSB’s operations.”

 Overall, the project has received positive feedback from the community, as many JP residents said they would like to see more affordable units be built in the neighborhood, as well as to preserve a small business. Turtle Swamp owners John Lincecum and Nik Walther have both expressed their support for the building of affordable housing in the neighborhood at community meetings, but have also brought up their concerns for their loading zone and the impact of construction adjacent to the Turtle Swamp property.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) also held an informal discussion regarding the lawsuit at its May 25 meeting.

 “I think the lawsuit is frivolous and they should not sue JPNDC,” JPNC member Max Glikman said.

  “I think it’s just a shame to have JPNDC and a local business at odds with each other,” said member Carolyn Royce. “I’m really hopeful something will be worked out…it’s unfortunate.”

  City Life/Vida Urbana, which has also rallied to support affordable housing in general. But the project 3368 Washington St. and this project have been especially supported recently given the opposition from Gold and now also Turtle Swamp.

  Alex Ponte-Capellan, a Community Organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana, told the Gazette that “this project has been through the community process for two years and I know that [JPNDC has] made commitments around construction issues that Turtle Swamp has raised to minimize any issues that they have, but Turtle Swamp and Monty Gold continue to sue this project and that is just creating an existential crisis for the Latino owned business that’s there that’s been a part of the community for 30 years, as well as blocking much-needed housing for low-income seniors.”

Following the first lawsuit against 3368 Washington St., City Life created a petition asking Monty Gold to drop the lawsuit.  That suit was settled, but now another petition has been created asking Turtle Swamp and Gold to drop this lawsuit and has already received more than 800 signatures.

  “We’re going to continue to support affordable housing in JP, especially when there’s tons of luxury developments going up all down Washington St.,” Ponte-Capellan said.

“They may have their concerns around construction, but to my knowledge, JPNDC is more than willing to come to the table…and propose real solutions that will mitigate whatever issues they have,” he added.

 In a statement, JPNDC CEO Teronda Ellis said that “with any proposed project, JPNDC is committed to working with abutters to address their concerns. We know from experience that it is possible to build affordable homes and be good neighbors. We are 100% committed to minimizing the impact of the 3371 Washington project on Turtle Swamp’s operations.

We appreciate the tremendous support we have received from hundreds of residents regarding this project, and look forward to building it and continuing to advance our mission.”

The JPNDC’s full statement as well as commitment to mitigation for this project can be found at jpndc.org/in-planning-3371-washington-street.

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