The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved a proposal by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp. for a 39-unit apartment building for senior citizens at 3371 Washington St. in Jamaica Plain, next to Turtle Swamp Brewing.
All of the units would have one bedroom and would be rented to seniors making no more than 60% of the Boston area median income - with a third of the units rented to people making no more than 30% of that level. The building would have a live-in manager. There would be no parking, but the city would convert three on-street parking spaces on Washington Street for short-term parking, such as for drop offs and pickups.
As part of the plans, El Embajador, a restaurant now on the site, would get space in the new building, Teronda Ellis, CEO of the non-profit group, told the board.
The mayor's office and the offices of City Councilors Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) and Annissa Essaibi-George, supported the proposal.
But John Lincecum, owner of Turtle Swamp Brewing, said the building, which would come right up to the property line of the building he now leases, said construction of the building alone could put him out of business and throw his 15 local employees out of work. He said construction would make operation of his existing patio, in a parking lot that goes up to the property line, impossible, for safety reasons alone.
"Parking cannot simply be ignored," he said, adding the 18-wheel trucks that now deliver supplies to his brewery currently pull up where JPNDC wants to take three spaces in front of its proposed building.
Lincecum noted that the board has approved a number of relatively large projects along that stretch of Washington Street in recent years. His landlord, Monty Gold, is currently suing the Pine Street Inn over its proposed 140-unit building across the street.
Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo seemed to take Lincecum's side at first. Noting the stereotypical example of people who move next to a pig farm and then start complaining about the farm, she asked Ellis how she would ensure that residents of the new building would not start complaining about the operation of a brewery, even if it was there first. In fact, she asked if Ellis could include language in rental agreements that would be residents acknowledge they're moving next to a brewery.
Ellis acknowledged that seniors can be vocal, but that they are also fair - and recognize they live in a city.
She said her group has built and runs numerous housing buildings next to busy commercial and public spaces, including subway stops and that in addition to housing, the group's main focus is supporting small businesses, such as El Embajador. She said she would sit down with Lincecum - again, she said - to figure out how to keep construction from impacting his business. And she pointed to JPNDC's far larger Brewery complex on Amory Street, which in normal times attracts thousands of visitors, as proof it can work to ensure both residents and commercial ventures can co-exist.
The board then voted unanimously to approve the project. Araujo urged Ellis and Lincecum to meet to figure things out.
The BPDA approved the project last month.
BPDA filings on the project.