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Neighbors sue to block apartment building on Belgrade Avenue on Roslindale/West Roxbury line

Seven Roslindale residents today sued the Zoning Board of Appeal and a Dedham developer to block an apartment building on Belgrade Avenue at West Roxbury Parkway that they say would just be far too large for their neighborhood.

The zoning board approved variances for developer Jake Upton's 124-unit apartment building at the old Clay Chevrolet site in July

In their lawsuit, filed in Land Court, five residents of the Belgrade Crossing condos at 345 Belgrade Ave. condos, across what's basically a driveway from the site, a resident who lives off Anawan Avenue and a resident of Rhoda Street, on the other side of the train tracks, say the proposed five-story building would mean "increased traffic that will jeopardize pedestrian and vehicular traffic" along both Belgrade and Anawan avenues, degrade the "environmental conditions" at their properties and just be so densely packed on the site it would be "harmful to its neighbors." How could it not, given that it's roughly two times as tall as allowed by the zoning along Belgrade Avenue - and has two more floors than the three otherwise allowed - they ask.

They add:

Finally, contrary to the Board's unsupported finding that granting the requested zoning relief will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Code, the Defendant's Proposed Project will be injurious to the neighborhood and otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.

Also, they charge, there's nothing unusual about the Clay property that would require variances from zoning to build something far larger than anything else along Belgrade Avenue and that Upton could still enjoy "reasonable use of the land" with a smaller building.

At the July hearing, Upton's attorney said the variances were allowed in part because the property actually has a slope, in part because it has no direct neighbors, being surrounded entirely by roads and train tracks.

Upton was originally going to be the designated builder for a new Roxbury Prep charter high school on the site. West Roxbury and some Roslindale residents, however, convinced the BPDA to bottle up in regulatory limbo for more than two years until the school finally gave up and went away in 2021. In contrast, the BPDA approved Upton's apartment plan just six months after he filed it.

During the Roxbury Prep interregnum, residents who organized a supposed Belgrade Avenue neighborhood association said the school was too large for the site and called for housing instead.

Complete complaint (1.6M PDF).

Watch the July hearing:



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the traffic will jeopardize traffic!

Voting closed 70

It's actually transit-oriented (commuter rail and buses, basically at their door.) As such, lots of the folks living there won't get in their cars every morning. Plus, who goes into work anymore? That "horrible traffic" claim is simply not true.

Voting closed 65

Actually, traffic is horrible in that area during the morning/afternoon rush hours. Mostly related to the volume on West Roxbury Parkway, the horrible light timing, and the Holy Name circle kerfuffle.

Voting closed 48

At times the light only stays green on the Belgrade side for six seconds before changing (never more than about 20), while the Parkway side gets a full minute, even if there are no cars traveling through the intersection (they actually had this fixed briefly earlier this year so that the light would change if there were no cars on that part of the Parkway, but it was later unfixed).

Not to mention if you're heading east down Belgrade, the light at Iona Street is timed to usually turn red shortly after the Parkway light turns green, slowing the inbound commute a little bit more (granted, I can see the safety reason for that, to keep some people from turning that straight part of Belgrade into a dragstrip).

Voting closed 9

You know what would only have traffic two, maybe three, times a day? A school. Teenagers were too scary to countenance though, so now you're getting housing.

It's also literally next to a commuter rail stop. There's no better site to grant a variance in order to increase density near transit. If anything, it could be taller.

Voting closed 100

Perhaps the residents will be more open to the school proposal now.

Voting closed 17

These are next door neighbors in a recently built condo building fighting this. It's the definition of NIMBYism. Their building got done with zoning variances and now they're fighting the same thing next door. For what it's worth, these are not the main people that fought Roxbury Prep previously - that was a different group of neighbors who primarily lived nearby in West Roxbury.

Voting closed 69

Just curious as to why YIYBY is any more valid an argument than NIMBY?

Voting closed 10

You are correct that we are next door neighbors in a condo building that was built 10 years ago. But the difference is that our 16-unit building was built without zoning variances; it was built in compliance with zoning. If Upton did the same, if Upton proposed a building that complied with zoning, the 361 project would have to have had a gross floor area of only about 43,000 square feet instead of what got approved: 129,000 square feet, 3 times the allowed size. Also, for what it’s worth, our group was not against there being any variances for 361 Belgrade – we offered to compromise with Upton on a building 4 stories in height (instead of 5 stories) with about 100 units (instead of 124 units) but Upton would not agree to reduce the height or density at all.

Voting closed 32

They will win too because the only variances allowed by law is for financial hardship. The developer will be asked to make a deal with them. Only in Boston do they give out variances like candy.

Voting closed 19

Neither am I, but I've been watching zoning meetings for years and financial hardship, by itself, is not the only reason to seek a variance, and it might not even work in all cases (I mean, I could argue it's a financial hardship that I can't hire a builder to put up a 20-story apartment building on my land, because I won't make as much money as I know I deserve, but no way would I get variances on my block of one and two-family houses).

Possible reasons include an oddly shaped lot or unusual topographic conditions (for example, a major slope) that make it difficult to comply with zoning on a particular lot. And you, at least theoretically, have to prove that without the variance, you would be unable to make "reasonable use" of your property (so in this case, the nearby residents claim the developer had more than enough land to get some "reasonable use" out of it - just not to the extent of a 124-unit, five-story building.

But don't take it from me. Read this overview by a lawyer.

Voting closed 23

How could it not, given that it's roughly two times as tall as allowed by the zoning along Belgrade Avenue - and has two more floors than the three otherwise allowed - they ask.

“How could it not?” Perhaps the awful zoning laws are just as stupid as these awful nimbys. These’s a special place in hell for these losers.

Voting closed 38

If you fight someone's variances and lose, they get your house too.

Voting closed 16

Make a harassing NIMBY law suit after the ZBA has already ruled, then the FAR is doubled and the parking requirement is halved.

Voting closed 10

SLAPP lawsuits are by guys with lots of money and a lot of public exposure suing critics (who often have far less resources) because the negative attention is unwanted by the large assholes who initiate those sorts of lawsuits.

Anti-SLAPP laws let the little guy file a motion up front that says "this is just a SLAPP attempt, please make the large asshole go away".

We should absolutely have Anti-NIMBY equivalents. "This is just a NIMBY attempt, please make the self-absorbed asshole go away".

Voting closed 14