A developer putting up an apartment building and a condo building off Soldiers Field Road in Brighton, which were granted several zoning variances in 2018, today sued the Zoning Board of Appeal for granting several zoning variances earlier this year for an apartment building that would go next door.
In the suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, two subsidiaries of developer Stephen Chapman's SMC Management Corp. charge the board overstepped its authority in granting the upstart project exemptions from the area's zoning and that, legally, the LLC listed on the newer project's application could not have applied for these variances because it was not formally incorporated in Massachusetts under the name on its application to the zoning board.
The suit also charges the new project does not have any of the legally required "hardships" that would allow for variances, or exemptions, from the area's zoning, but that the new building would undue hardship on the first-approved project because both would share Soldiers Field Place, a small street that couldn't really handle all the traffic or extra cars that will park there because the new building would only have on-site parking spaces, so people will park on the small street, which comes off Soldiers Field Road inbound, just before the ramp up to Birmingham Parkway and Market Street.
Also, the suit alleges, while the board lists reasons why the project needs variances, they are not good reasons, in part because they don't detail the specific characteristics of the lot that would call for variances; that the site is now occupied by an old commercial building is not a hardship.
Chapman is asking a judge to annul the board's approval of his would-be neighbor, to issue a declaration that the board screwed up and to award attorney's fees and court costs.
In 2018, the zoning board approved plans for a six-story, 211-unit apartment building at 1550 Soldiers Field Road and a five-story, 38-unit condo building directly on Soldiers Field Place (watch the zoning-board hearing). The developer that was granted that permission then sold the project to Chapman in 2019.
The project needed variances due to the height of the buildings, their density on their parcels and insufficient front yards. They also needed conditional approval - which unlike variances do not require any proof of hardship - because they are in a "greenbelt protection" district along Soldiers Field Road and because they would be multi-family buildings.
On April 27 of this year, the board approved plans by developer Steve Ballas of Chestnut Hill for a six-story, 102-unit apartment building on Soldiers Field Place, with a former address of 1500 Soldiers Field Road. The project needed the same variances and conditional approval as its would be neighbor.
Both projects have also been approved by the BPDA. Both projects were represented before the zoning board by downtown zoning attorney Joseph Hanley, although in 2018, he didn't represent Chapman, but the developer Chapman bought that project from.
During the April 27 hearing, Chapman's attorney, Kevin McRoy of Fall River, began to explain why the board should not approve variances for the new proposal, starting with the fact that developer Steve Ballas's desire to maximize his profits was not, legally speaking, a zoning "hardship."
Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo, however, stopped him almost immediately and asked if his client's project had received variances from the board. When he acknowledged it had, she silenced him, saying that developers whose projects had earlier won variances from the board were in no position to complain about another developer getting a variance (watch the hearing).
Complete complaint (16.7M PDF).