Litigation Sought against the ZBA for Allowing 212 Stuart St Tower to Proceed

By Beth Treffeisen

The owners of the deed-restricted housing complex at 230 Stuart St., called South Cove Plazas, have brought a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in response to the passage of the zoning variances for the proposed 212-222 Stuart St. tower in Bay Village.

The lawsuit comes toward the end of a long, drawn-out process between the developers, Transom Real Estate, and the residents of Bay Village.

Weston Associates, the owners of 230 Stuart St., did not state their viewpoint at any of the community meetings and waited until the ZBA decision to state their objection.

“They just waited to the end of the process with no warning,” said Sarah Herlihy, the president of theBay Village Neighborhood Association (BVNA).

On Aug. 15, ZBA unanimously approved the zoning relief to allow for the construction of a 19-story, 133-unit residential tower and two townhouse units at 212-222 Stuart St.

Variances for this project that were approved by the ZBA included insufficient parking, impermissible uses of multi-family dwelling, restaurant, bakery, and retail space, excessive floor-area ratio, height, and insufficient open space.

Once the ZBA passes a matter it opens up a 20-day period for litigation.

Weston Associates, the owners of Cove Plaza at 230 Stuart St., containing two seven-story, low-income apartment buildings that are adjacent to the proposed tower at 212-222 Stuart St., brought litigation against the ZBA for its decision to allow for the variances.

Prior to the hearing, Weston Associates submitted a letter in objection, citing the negative impacts the proposed tower will have including access to air and light, increased ground-level wind around the South Cove property, and the detrimental impact on traffic and parking.

The letter also stated that the new tower would impair the view of the tenants at South Cove, and cast a morning shadow along the roof deck and courtyard, damaging the property’s value.

The current site of the proposed tower consists of a surface parking lot and an empty parcel of land that sits next to the above-ground Revere Hotel parking garage.

South Cove apartments were built in Bay Village when the neighborhood was still blighted. Under urban renewal, the low-income residencies at 230 Stuart St. had to gain similar variances that the 212-222 Stuart St. tower had to receive in order to be built.

“[This lawsuit] can kill the project,” said Herlihy.

Herlihy said that there are building cycles, and Boston is probably towards the end of the current boom. It can take a lot of time to litigate and might stall the project to the point where it is no longer feasible in the market.

“In the 13 years that I have lived in the neighborhood and have been a member of the BVNA executive board, it is my opinion that this is the best proposal for these parcels that we have seen,” said Herlihy.

Two prior proposals included an eight-story residential complex and a 10-story office building that received approval from the city, but failed to get built.

“The developer’s engagement with the neighborhood and residents was extensive (more than I have seen for any other project by any other developer), and the changes made in response to community input were extensive,” continued Herlihy. “It is disappointing to have this result when the ‘process’ worked in that the developer had an idea, he listened to the community, made changes and the community supported the final proposal.”

The proposed project gained support from the BVNA this past April and approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency this past June.

“We are grateful that this project has overwhelming support from the neighborhood,” said Peter Spellios, principal at Transom Real Estate in a statement. “The project became better because of the extensive community process over the past 18 months.”

He continued, “The building answers the call for elevated design that neighborhoods like Bay Village both deserve, and should come to expect from developers. We are committed to this project and to this neighborhood and look forward to the project moving forward.”

Despite litigation the developers plan on continuing with the Bay Village Landmarks Commission, marking the last big step for approval by the city.

Both the City and Weston Associates did not comment in time for publication of this story.

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