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Jamaica Plain brewery owner joins landlord to sue over proposed apartment building next door after landlord settles suit over proposed apartment building across the street

The owner of Turtle Swamp Brewing and his Washington Street landlord last week filed suits against the non-profit group that wants to build a 39-unit building for senior citizens next door, charging the building could harm the brewery and maybe even kill it.

The dual lawsuits, filed in Suffolk Superior Court by brewery owner John Lincecum and landlord Monty Gold, also name the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal, which in February approved plans by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp. for a five-story building right next to Turtle Swamp's parking lot and outdoor seating area.

Lincecum and Gold charge the building would be too large and does not have enough parking - which is similar to the argument Gold made in his lawsuit against an even larger, 202-unit, proposal by the Pine Street Inn across the street. Gold, the Pine Street Inn and its developer, Community Builders, Inc., agreed to settle that case in April, with Pine Street agreeing to lease parking spaces for construction workers at a nearby church and to then use the spaces for parking by Pine Street Inn workers after the new building opens. Pine Street Inn also agreed to not oppose any redevelopment of the Turtle Swamp property by Gold.

Lincecum was not a party to that lawsuit, even though Gold's argument then centered mainly on the parking impact on the brewery.

In his suit against the senior-citizen building, Lincecum argues the board should never have approved low-income housing in an industrial zone and that there is nothing particularly special about the property that would have allowed the six other variances the board granted on such issues as density, side-lot requirements and parking.

Part of the building would come right up to the property line, but Lincecum and Gold say they don't know how workers will even be able to put the thing up because they certainly aren't going to give contractors permission to use their space for the work - and that legally the workers better not do anything that would hamper Turtle Brewing's small parking lot and outdoor seating area.

The two also argue that the building's lack of parking will cause further problems for the brewery by making it harder for its customers to find their accustomed on-street parking. Gold also says the proposal would further harm the brewery because it would convert three on-street spaces that the drivers of 18-wheelers now use to make deliveries to the brewery into spaces where only ride-share drivers and others picking up and dropping off people could park.

Lincecum charges that, rather than proving hardships, the developers were only seeking to build as large as possible to maximize their profits on the project - in which 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.

In addition to the zoning board, the BPDA also approved the project

Renderings and documents on file with the BPDA.

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PDF icon Gold's complaint317.83 KB
PDF icon Turtle Swamp's complaint256.48 KB

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Comments

Good! The NDC needs to take a step back and let others succeed. Their empire is everywhere. Tired of them.

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Voting closed 30

Interesting. The "empire" consists of most of the subsidized affordable housing left in JP. Not sure why that is so tiring for you.

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Voting closed 33

Stay classy Turtle Swamp Brewery. Selfish people preventing seniors from living with dignity. Gross.

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Voting closed 60

However, this part does raise a real issue "Part of the building would come right up to the property line, but Lincecum and Gold say they don't know how workers will even be able to put the thing up because they certainly aren't going to give contractors permission to use their space for the work - and that legally the workers better not do anything that would hamper Turtle Brewing's small parking lot and outdoor seating area."

Most likely they will settle this in some way that is beneficial for the Brewery, but they do make a good point.

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Voting closed 23

Construction will be taking place during weekdays. Usual construction work days are 7am-3pm. When does a brewery get business? After 5pm and on the weekends. Turtle Swamp is doing more harm to their business via negative press than this construction would ever do. IMHO, this apartment building is an ideal neighbor and I would be happy to have them! We need more housing like this.

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Voting closed 14

Sounds like a job for the JP Progressives!

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Voting closed 32

That's their Twitter bio. So much for that.

Very funny to me that a business that is so close to a T stop is complaining about parking.

Anyway, I had never heard of this place until they argued to the zoning board about this, but now they've guaranteed that I'll never let a cent of my money fall into their hands. Some neighbors.

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Voting closed 101

I'm inclined to backwards anyone trying to put up housing in an area that's just calling for high density development -- but reading over Turtle Swamp's complaint, it's not all parking. The short:

Turtle Swamp opened in an area that's zoned as Local Industrial -- an area where the zoning is meant to support & preserve manufacturing and industrial businesses. Developer wants to build directly-adjacent with a purpose (housing, forbidden normally in Local Industrial) and in a design that requires several variances. One of those is related to buildings in this zone needing a loading area. Developer proposes creating a loading area by taking away the street front area Turtle Swamp uses for freight delivery, interfering with their use of their property (this seems to really be the crux reading the complaint).

The Board of Appeals granted zoning waivers allowing them to skip over having off-street parking and loading (which Turtle Swamp at least partially has, it's just not adequate for trucks to back into). The Board is allowed to grant waivers only when there are "special conditions" (odd lot shape, topography, etc.). In this case, there's nothing special about the developer's lot -- they just want to maximize the number of units they can build at the lowest cost & don't want to dedicate any space of their own to parking/loading, and the variance is at the expense of Turtle Swamp.

The Board didn't address the variance meeting the standards for granting the variance, they just arbitrarily decided to grant it. It goes against both the list of reasons for which a variance can be issued, and the stated purpose of a Local Industrial zoning area.

There seems to be plenty of common sense solutions (build a loading dock into the new building, get access to parking that's not directly on site like the Pine Street Inn case, etc.), it's just that the developer ignored them to pursue the lowest-cost-solution at Turtle Swamp's expense, and the ZBA granted variances inappropriately. What other remedy should they have pursued instead of going to court?

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Voting closed 108

I order to have something “taken” from you, one must first possess it. Turtle Swamp does not own the street space being used for loading. They are no more entitled to the use of it than the developer. What’s more, requiring a loading dock to be built into the structure would be bad for anyone using the sidewalk and would limit the number of apartments they could build (remember the housing shortage?). Turtle Swamp just doesn’t want non-profit housing next door to their establishment and apparently they are willing to drag their own name through the mud in order to block it.

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Voting closed 49

They don’t own the street parking, but granting a variance to allow the developer to take away street parking so they don’t have to build a loading dock explicitly violates the purpose of a Local Industrial zone. “I need a variance because otherwise it would limit the number of units I could build” is not the type of special condition ZBA is allowed to grant variances for. Remember, they don’t need a physical taking of parking to have standing, they need to have demonstrated harm.

There are pretty clear solutions to this, it’s just that the developer is trying to stiff arm the abutters & have them eat the headache and cost — abutters for whom the local zoning area is meant to support through a variance.

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Voting closed 47

I disagree. NDC could have gone anywhere to cram in a bunch of housing units on an extremely tight site. I don't think TS cares about it being non-profit or lower income. Anyone will drink and buy beer. There is no way that their business will not be impacted and so what will the NDC do to mitigate it. Clearly, any of their solutions to date have not been enough. We will see.

And if I recall, a staff person for the NDC was lauding the fact that "Black and Brown" people will proudly live in these units back in February. What a smack in the face to older Asian low-income seniors. The NDC doesn't look out for everyone. Remember that.

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Voting closed 25

They grant something like 85% of requested variances, clearly most of those don't meet the legal standard of hardship. And the ones they don't grant often seem capricious--449 Cambridge Street in Allston comes to mind. Why is the ZBA overriding city policy?

It also shows that Boston zoning desperately needs to be updated. All that planning the BPDA is doing (including PLAN: JP/ROX) doesn't ever seem to become zoning. That plan encourages residential above the first floor in LI areas, which given the lack of housing in Boston makes sense. The project in question doesn't conform to the plan or the base zoning. Predictability helps businesses and residents--wouldn't it make sense to try to reach that?

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Voting closed 25

The big bad developer looking to pack in as many units as possible is JPNDC — a local non-profit developer focused on providing housing for those in our community struggling to stay housed or attain housing.

It's a building for senior housing no less. They're including as much as they can because they need to offset the sheer cost of construction. Lumber has exploded during the pandemic because of supply issues, which has added significant cost to the OTHER project across the street — transitional housing for formerly homeless people, also by a well-known non-profit developer — which their landlord had previously been suing for damages and for which they were not party to, but outlined the same 'concerns' they've finally signed their names to with this suit.

These nonprofit developments depend on donations, tight revenue streams, and a rickety assembly of grants that make it absolutely critcal that they dedicate as much as they can to housing and not car storage. The retail isn't so large that it needs a loading dock.

Our zoning is broken and it's sad that we can't build housing we need where we can without exposing everyone to litigation like this.

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Voting closed 51

I agree that re-zoning this area makes sense! In re-zoning, we (as a city) will need to deal with these exact sort of issues where manufacturing and residential need to coexist, and set a standard.

The problem here is that we haven’t done that, Turtle Swamp opened a business in an area with proper zoning that has accommodations for their type of business, and is now getting shafted by ZBA effectively trying to rewrite that zoning without any real legal process.

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Voting closed 43

Please, enough of that holier than thou attitude: All of these affordable/ senior units come with publicly guaranteed rental income.This 'non-profit' is the largest developer in JP, and a highly profitable business. JPNDC owns and operates about a thousand rental units, and is rapidly expanding at the expense of everyone else.

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Voting closed 42

Is "everyone else" willing to rent/sell to people at Boston Median Incomes? Is "everyone else" willing to create deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing? Sure, JPNDC, Urban Edge, etc. could improve on their model by spinning off buildings they develop into cooperative ownership by the residents, but the same could be said of all developers, and private developers are the ones whose profit motive drives the extraction of wealth from working people through inflated housing costs.

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Voting closed 21

I have lived at 65 Cornwall St, a few blocks away from this site, since 2005, and before that i lived on Glen Rd. and on Kenton Rd.

This is in the Washington Street Corridor, where a City planning process was run several years ago, during Marty Walsh's first term, to rezone the neighborhood in order to accommodate more housing. It was called "Plan JP Rox" and I'm sure you can read about it on the BRA's website or google news articles about it. Many of us as residents of the neighborhood attended meetings about this and protested because we felt the change in guidelines was aimed at getting private developers to put up a bunch of "luxury" housing since apparently that's all that gets financed nowadays. And that the changes existing abutters and residents would experience as these new buildings went up, would include more of us being priced out by the inflated prices of the new housing.

This development proposed for 3371 Washington St is one of the ONLY good things to come out of the redevelopment of our neighborhood, and it is so heartbreaking to see people trying to block it, throwing up nuisance lawsuits that add to the costs of building affordable housing which we so desperately need in our the neighborhood.

What's especially infuriating is that El Embajador Restaurant has been in that spot for DECADES - much longer than Turtle Swamp, whoever they are - and the previous owner of the building (before the nonprofit JPNDC acquired it) was trying to evict them and the auto repair business next door, in order to flip it for profit. These small businesses at 3371 Washington St. are owned by Dominican immigrants, and date back to when this neighborhood wasn't such a trendy place for the clientele of Turtle Swamp Brewery.

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Voting closed 40

Why do you City Life people keep pretending that this fight is about El Embajador? The owner is old, ready to retire, and want's no part of this. The fight for El Embajador was just a pretext for JPNDC to grab more land.
And on the topic of small local businesses, does anyone find it surprising that the ones closing shop are all tenants of the NDC? Bella Luna, Ula cafe and The Frogmore were all housed in properties owned by the NDC. They went under because the NDC did not cut them any slack during the pandemic. I didn't see any of Monty Golds tenants go bankrupt, did you?

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Voting closed 50

Monty Gold, benevolent landlord. Now that's funny.

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Voting closed 11

Hey freemarket, the only evil landowner historically displacing businesess in JP is Mordy. Sounds familiar?

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Voting closed 11

It was just bought (last week, I think) and will remain open. Adam covered that it was up for sale elsewhere.

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Voting closed 8

I have heard of Turtle Swamp and, indeeed, have spent quite a bit of money there over the years... No more. They won't get one more visit from me. Hopefully the next tenants after they go out of business will be better neighbors.

If you're trying to run a brewery in JP, nimbyism is pretty bad fucking business.

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Voting closed 25

The Newbie-ism is also pretty fucked up. Most of you wouldn't have stepped foot in that area in the 70s,80's and 90s. Too "scary" for you. You move into a place b/c it's so "cool" and "gritty" and then all you do is gripe about Nimby's. The Nimby's are what made you like the area in the first place.

That being said some Nimby's out there are 100% a tad ridiculous but the same can be said of the Newbies.

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Voting closed 23

The end of "white flight" (itself a product of highway subsidies and now-defunct racist banking policies) is why property in the city is expensive again, not people protecting their precious sunlight and free on-street parking.

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Voting closed 8

"Nimbyism is pretty bad fucking business"

Lol, for real? Go to any community meeting about development, nimbyism is JP's bread and butter.

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Voting closed 11

JPNDC bullied the previous owner of the building (City Realty) into selling the building to them. They did so by organizing protests and marches through their political action arm, City Life. They are now trying to bully the brewery and their landlord into submission as well.

JPNDC is the largest landlord in JP. They own and rent out almost a thousand unit. Their true market value is well north of a hundred million. They are a large business masquerading as a non-profit. If they really wanted to put a dent into affordable housing, they could develop the brewery complex. But doing so would impact their main tenant, Sam Adams. The same Sam Adams which is famously pro Trump. Do you all know how JPNDC came to possess this particular property? Do you know how City Life bullied the previous owners to sell it to JPNDC?

Do you wonder why it takes JPNDC only 3 months to get their projects approved, while it takes private developers about two years (JP auto glass is a case in point)? Do understand how these 'non-profits' have captured the political process and are stifling the economy?

JPNDC is a cancer on the neighborhood. I am glad that someone is fighting them. It's time for the rest of us to join the fight. It's time to end the whiny- woke 'non-profit' industrial complex.

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Voting closed 52

All for fighting the nonprofit industrial complex! We need to make sure land and buildings acquired and developed by nonprofits are able to transition into cooperative ownership by the residents. The people who live and work in a place are the ones who should own it, as Zapata said, "La tierra es de quien la trabaja." Non-occupant ownership should not be a thing. And Morty Levin (who owns the building on the other side of El Embajador from Monty Gold) should have had his vacant properties seized decades ago and given to owners who will occupy and use the space.

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Voting closed 12

"Non-occupant ownership should not be a thing"
Seizing property from owners and distributing it to locals has been tried in many different countries, all with disastrous effects. Strong property rights are the fundamental reason why liberal democracies are able to maintain stability and generate wealth. Read a little Adam Smith before spouting Karl Marx from you posterior.
It would behoove you the kombucha-drinking Che Gueveras of the Socialist Republic of JP to pay some attention to history. But given the state of education it's probably too much to ask.As for transitioning JPNDC properties into owner cooperatives, that is never going to happen. JPNDC has discovered that money = power. They are never going to give up their empire.

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Voting closed 18

Fascinating revisionist history lesson about the JPNDC's acquisition of 3371 Washington Street, given that most people saw the organizing around that building as a great victory for the neighborhood. It takes a real sense of irony to show sympathy for City Realty as a victim of "bullying" given their disgraceful track record as developer and landlord, and the fact that they made a ton of money flipping that property on their way out the door.

And the JP Auto Glass developer you reference right down the street must also have had some kind of pull to get approval for the 43 unit market rate housing project with zero parking without getting sued by Monty Gold and Turtle Swamp for lack of parking and replacing an industrial use with housing.

"Cancer on the neighborhood."? "Whiny-woke nonprofit industrial complex."? Strong language to describe a well-respected community development corporation that, along with Urban Edge, has created or preserved most of the affordable housing left in Jamaica Plain. Sounds like someone with an ax to grind more than a rational defense of an indefensible lawsuit.

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Voting closed 12

I’m an occasional customer at Turtle Swamp. I think their complaint about parking is crap. Like you said the orange line is right there(they even have an ipa named after it) and drinkers should not be driving.

But I do think that the construction will interfere with the brewery on their property. They have patio tables next to the building. They would have to remove those for at least a year because who would want to sit 5 feet from a building being constructed. I don’t know what a compromise could be. Just saying that the brewery would lose business during construction.

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Voting closed 31

In 2005-06 they redeveloped the entire Brewery complex around Sam Adams' JP production.

In meetings about the senior housing project on Washington Street, JPNDC offered the former Bella Luna space to Turtle Swamp as a temporary space during construction. Turtle Swamp said no. Turtle Swamp could be a partner in this much needed development (and zoning changes) for senior housing, and work with the developers of the building through construction abatement meetings to find a way to get it done. They don't seem interested in that, which is just stupid, and the opposite of community building and good faith.

Good for Lincecum for not hiding behind Monty Gold like he did for the Pine Street Inn suit. Now I can confidently never go to Turtle Swamp again.

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Voting closed 25

Do you understand marketing and business logistics? The brand gets muddied when they're all over the place. They have opened the Rozzie Beer Garden too which is great.

Also, inefficiencies of scale when workers have to run between two and three locations. And I would think that the community wants the old BL and patio combo to re-rented out to a single new restaurant venture as soon as possible. Or were they willing to keep the whole sha-bang empty until construction was over? That wouldn't have been good for the community either.

Isn't the Haven going into the BL space? So, Haven in the restaurant, TS on the patio. A WEIRD and fucked up scenario.

What was in it for TS to temporarily move over to the old Bella Luna patio? Who cares about good faith when profits go down due to being forced out and spread all over the place. Maybe it would have worked; maybe it wouldn't have, and TS was not willing to find out.

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Voting closed 14

This was before Haven wanted the BL space JPNDC offered it out to TS during the construction of the senior housing (sometime last winter, during the public meetings.) That seems pretty good for the community, and it's a better patio, far away from the construction of Pine St Inn housing, and has lots of parking! Seems to check some boxes for TS.

And BMS paper is in the works to build out their space, which, oddly enough, TS has not yet opposed publicly, or sued to stop because it's going to also ruin their parking for employees. It's going to be a storefront of some sort, with a restaurant I think? BMS didn't sue Pine St Inn nor have they sued JPNDC (as far as I know.)

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Voting closed 11

Sam Adams did not have a taproom and patio at that time. They are also a multi billion dollar corporation. Very different situation.

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Voting closed 16

My point is that the development of the Brewery complex around Sam Adams improved the brewery as a whole, and definitely inconvenienced Sam Adams in the construction process. Turtle Swamp wants no one to inconvenience them, period, and if we're working toward the greater good, I'm going to chose to support senior housing and formerly homeless housing over beer. And I like their beer. It's a fun place to hang out.

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Voting closed 9

So never build anything next to anything?

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Voting closed 34

There will be occasional activity at other times, but not much. So it would affect the lunch crowd but not those who start drinking mid-afternoon. (I see you JP).

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Voting closed 28

Cuz they will take down their scaffolding and equipment everyday.

Fantasyland.

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Voting closed 10

This was my thinking as well: Construction sites and breweries do not exactly share similar hours.

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Voting closed 11

If 39 units of senior citizens next door is enough to kill your brewery, your brewery deserves to die.

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Voting closed 43

For profit or non profit will do this everytime...... Ignore zoning law, change the use from industrial to residential, and then build right up to the property line with the ZBA's blessing? What am I missing?

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Voting closed 40

Most zoning law should die a painful death. Exclusionary zoning is for the burbs. Don't like living in dense communities? Move to Kentucky.

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Voting closed 37

So you just would lie down and take it if this was your business? Kneel and kiss the developer's ring?

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Voting closed 23

Do you have a house?

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Voting closed 13

It's almost as if zoning laws lose their relevance over the decades as a city grows, industries move to the exurbs and housing near public transit becomes highly desirable.

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Voting closed 26

Meanwhile, half a block away, a 43 unit market rate development with zero parking was recently approved with not a word of protest from Turtle Swamp or Gold about parking. BMS Paper is proposing 150+ mostly market rate housing units across the street from the brewery, and one of Turtle Swamp’s owners sits on that project’s review committee with not a peep of protest about building housing in industrial uses, as they cite in this lawsuit. Shame on Monty Gold and Turtle Swamp for singling out the only affordable housing being built along Washington Street in a sea of market and luxury housing development, while also jeopardizing the long-term prospects of a beloved neighborhood restaurant.

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Voting closed 50

Agreed. Gold shows a pattern of filing suits against affordable projects, while remaining silent or even supporting proposed market-rate developments such as the BMS Paper site or another large project proposed by Cabot Cabot Forbes on the old Boston Cab site in the West Fens.

In addition, unlike residential abutters, neither Gold nor the Turtle Swamp owners raised ANY of their concerns during the 2 year public process that JPNDC held as they developed plans for the project. This is what entitlement looks like.

These lawsuits cause delay which means our neighbors risk being displaced or unhoused.

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Voting closed 21

Only affordable housing being built? Are you from the neighborhood? There are many affordable housing units being built in this area. Additionally, our neighborhood proudly welcomed Pine Street Inn's largest homeless shelter in the state. There is also significant advocacy to bring the treatment and rehab facilities planned for the Shattuck over into the arborway bus yard so that MassCass can get cleaned up. We definitely need more of this but the neighborhood has been better than most at welcoming affordable housing and services. That said, we should trample over zoning laws to do so.

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Voting closed 11

This "Turtle Swamp" place will shutdown and become a Jimmy Johns.

Monty Gold can't exit this mortal coil fast enough.

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Voting closed 14

Yeah, the little ones are all about vapin'. This whole good beer thing is clearly a flash in the pan. It was only 30 years ago that all this pesky yuppie "craft beer" nonsense started.

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Voting closed 12

Most people credit New Albion and Sierra Nevada as starting the microbrewery revolution, which were founded in 1976 and 1979 respectively. I think we're more likely to get to a point where craft breweries are like a bakeries or delis - every neighborhood has their local spot that does fine even if it never becomes a national success.

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Voting closed 13

Let's start requiring every private business including both Turtle Swamp locations to have sufficient off-street parking for patrons, just like the zoning code and they demand it for any new residential development. They'll all change their tune pretty quickly. Right now, they ride on the taxpayer-subsidized on-street parking gravy train. Two can play this game.

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Voting closed 22

That's how I feel about the businesses against the road diet in WR. They poo-poo'd it b/c the plan would have taken 16 public parking spaces... I say the businesses should have to buy the spaces at market value for their customers. Then that money can be used for the road diet.

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Voting closed 18

I remember when TurtleSwamp was opening and everyone was praising them for starting a brewery in JP, giving people a place to go in that area and jobs. Progressives, politicians, etc.

People love to criticize and comment and prove that this statement is correct

"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

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Voting closed 19

Why is anyone concerned about parking for a brewery in a city. This is not a valid argument. There should be no encouragement to drive to a brewery especially in a city - and at the expense of senior and low income housing both of which are in short order around here - makes no damn sense. Screw these obstructionist asshats, they really are brining down the neighborhood.

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Voting closed 17

If you read the actual suit, it’s a lot less about customer parking, it’s more focused on the issue of loading space for trucks that make deliveries (you can’t get thousands of pounds of grain palletized & delivered to you in a little Ford Transit van!). They have a small parking and loading area, but depend on street front area that the developer wants to take away in order to not have to make their own small parking/loading area.

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Voting closed 18

So the only solution is no senior housing and no low income housing because deliveries? Doesn’t pass the smell test. Neither does the crappy argument about parking spaces. These guys can couch all they want but it’s pretty see through especially when they support or have no objection to the market rate developments around the brewery.

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Voting closed 15

Mark the space as a commercial loading zone, and let both buildings use it. If anything, turning it into a loading zone would be better for that rather than the current scenario, where it's just regular parking spaces.

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Voting closed 18

I am a close neighbor of Turtle Swamp and welcome Pine Street's new housing. Honestly this is disgusting behavior from Turtle Swamp and Monty Gold (that isn't surprising given his reputation). I used to go to TS but will never return. This won't make TS close, but everyone finding out how terrible will. Where's TS' parking anyways? They should be required to be providing it as well if that is their complaint.

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Voting closed 19

I am really surprised that Turtle Swamp and Monty Gold would make themselves look so bad if they want to thrive in this neighborhood. People who have lived here for their whole lives have been kicked out due to the rising real estate prices, developer antics and JP/Rox initiative -which is racist if you ask me (they put it right down the line of where POC live.) Now these people are after affordable housing for the elderly? WOW! How evil can you be to sue a project like that? I will now never step foot in that establishment. Wake up, grow up, drop your complaint and get your own parking if that's what you want Turtle Swamp.

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Voting closed 8