Two residents of leafy Allandale Street last week sued the BPDA for its approval of a contentious 16-unit townhouse development next to Allandale Woods, accusing the agency of violating Boston's own requirements for approving the project and ignoring concerns by the city parks department about the potential impact on the woods.
Both the BPDA and the Zoning Board of Appeal approved an 18-unit development on two acres at 64 Allandale St. in 2016 - four units in an existing farmhouse on the site and sixteen new townhouses, in what was hailed as the city's first "net zero" development - a project that would not require a net flow of energy from the local utility grids. The BPDA later approved a reduction in size to 16 units.
Earlier this year, developer, WonderGroup, LLC, asked the BPDA to approve another change - the total number of units would remain the same, but their configuration would change - and the project would no longer have to be built as "net zero."
In their lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Allandale Street residents Jacqueline Lees and Elizabeth Bowen Donovan charge the BPDA should never have approved the "notice of project change" in a process meant for relatively minor changes, because, in fact, the configuration would mean significant changes, which would require a whole new public-review process.
They pointed in part to detailed comments on the revised plans by Boston Parks and Recreation, which urged that two units closest to the woods either be eliminated or moved elsewhere on the site, because of their potential direct impact on wetlands in the woods and on the unique wooded vistas for visitors to the roughly 100-acre Allandale Woods, "the City’s largest and most ecologically-significant, permanently-protected natural area."
Parks and Recreation also urged the BPDA to require WonderGroup to put in a small fenced in dog park for residents, to keep their pets from running off leash into the woods and killing any small animals they come across in what the department considers "a critical wildlife habitat."
Lees and Donovan also argue the project requires a complete new review because the original review, in 2016, was before Brigham and Women's Hospital across the street submitted its own plans for a major expansion and before another developer began looking at building an eight-unit townhouse development right next to 64 Allandale, at 90 Allandale.
And at a time of deepening concern over climate change, WonderGroup's request to replace the "net-zero" requirement with a promise to meet all applicable city codes - which do not require no new energy use from new developments - also warrants a new review, they say.
Lees and Donovan were among the residents who sued over the original 2016 cases in a suit that was dismissed by a judge in Suffolk Superior Court. They were in the process of filing an appeal of that ruling when WonderGroup submitted its plans for a smaller, but still energy-neutral project and they agreed to withdraw their appeal.
Complete complaint (1.25M PDF).
Boston Parks and Recreation concerns (951k PDF).
WonderGroup request for project change (23.8M PDF, includes renderings).
BPDA board approval of the revised plan (1.2M PDF).