Five Amory Street residents sued yesterday to try to overturn the city's approval of a proposed new headquarters for Youth Enrichment Services and a nine-unit apartment building next door, saying the two buildings are simply too large for the street and that the Zoning Board of Appeal went illegally overboard in granting the variances the project needs.
In their suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the residents are asking a judge to annul the board's approval of developer Lee Goodman's proposal, which needed variances from the board because his proposal is denser and taller than normally allowed, and did not have enough parking under the lot's current zoning.
The residents charge that the buildings, a four-story, 45-foot-tall apartment building and a three-story YES building with offices, classrooms and a ski shop, as well as a bus turnout, would "completely change the look, view and feel of the area" and block some residents' views of the Southwest Corridor Park. And then there are all the buses "coming back and forth on their otherwise quiet street," the residents say, adding that the "expansive" nine parking spaces for the apartment building would only worsen traffic on the street.
The proposed buildings would sit diagonally across from the large Brewery complex, which has its main entrance on Amory Street.
The residents say they are all in favor of YES getting new space for offices and classrooms for its outdoor athletic programs for Boston kids, which include skiing - but say they could do so in a smaller building.
But it's the apartment building, at a proposed 45 feet that really upsets the residents. There's nothing about the site in question that has the sort of hardships that would prevent Goodman from using the space, if not quite as expansively as he would like, they say.
"All other structures in the neighborhood are at most thirty (30) feet high," the suit says. In fact, the former Haffenreffer smokestack at the Brewery is more than 120 feet tall, although it is not right on the street.
In any event, the residents charge that the new JP/Rox zoning plan only allows for greater density for projects that have a higher percentage of affordable housing than otherwise required. Although YES is a non-profit group, and Goodman pointed to the building as a community contribution, it is not housing and so the greater density should not have been allowed, the residents say.
The residents also say Goodman, a longtime Jamaica Plain developer, never had required meetings with direct neighbors of the project and allege he may have unfairly influenced the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council to support the proposal.