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Neighbors sue to stop proposed Heights hotel

August 2020 hotel mockup, Lincoln ArchitectsAugust 2020 hotel mockup, Lincoln Architects

Town expresses broad confidence
it pursued right course

UPDATED, Oct. 6: Ten neighbors of the hotel proposed near Arlington Heights have filed suit to stop the project about a month after it received board approval.

The complaint asks the court to stop the the board from applying the zoning bylaw "in a manner contrary to previous representations" and determine that the Inspectional Services Department cannot lawfully issue a building permit for the project in the light of the current zoning regulations.

On Aug. 17, the Redevelopment Board voted, 5-0, to advance the proposed Hotel Lexington, 1207-1211 Mass. Ave., near St. Athanasius the Great Greek Orthodox Church.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 15 in Middlesex Land Court, names current Redevleopment Board members and one former board member; town inspectional services and developer James Doherty, a former town official.

Town counsel comments

The Redevelopment Board discussed the amended complaint in closed session at the end of the Monday, Oct. 5, board meeting. Asked to comment, Oct. 6, Town Counsel Doug Heim wrote:

"The ARB is in receipt of a complaint and amended complaint filed prior to service and met in Executive Session to discuss the appeal. After a thorough review of the pertinent facts and law, this office will file an appropriate response. 

"However, in the meantime, in broadest sense, I can affirm the ARB believes that it properly applied the Zoning Bylaw through the Environmental Design Review process set forth therein in rendering a quality decision on the special permit based on a record cultivated over a lengthy, public process. 

"To date a hearing has not been scheduled.  I'm happy to provide an update as the matter unfolds in this early stage."

The planning process to approve the hotel plan took more than a year. If built, it would be the town's second hotel in the 21st century. Hilton's Homewood Suites opened 100 units next to Cambridge in 2001.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment after a special permit was granted to Doherty under the board's environmental design-review process. The permit allows demolition of the existing structures, will require significant excavation and disturbance to the existing land and topography of the surrounding neighborhood and replaces them with a four-story, 48-unit hotel complex.

The complaint says: "The grounds for the plaintiffs' actions are that the special permit granted by the Board exceeds the Board's authority, the underlying facts do not support the Board's decision, the Board's decision fails to comply with the requirements of applicable law, the Board is estopped from taking certain actions today that are contrary to its prior interpretations of the applicable bylaws, and the granting of a building permit for the proposed project would be unlawful under current rules."

Entire complaint

To read the entire complaint, click here >>

Attorney Eric L. Brodie of Newton represents Marina Darlow, Adam Darlow, Ivana Zgaljic, James Rocci, Michael Sandler, Sara Langelier, Richard Mcelroy, Jihong Park, Eileen Park and Elise Welton.

Representing the town is Douglas Heim, town counsel.

Defendants in Case No. 20-MISC-378 are current members Eugene Benson, Kin Lau, Katie Levine-Einstein, David Watson and Rachel Zsembery and former member Andrew Bunnell, as well as Doherty, Trustee of the 1211 Mass. Ave. Realty Trust, and Arlington Inspectional Services Department.

Doherty was a longtime member of the Board of Assessors until 2014, when he sought the position of head assessor. He is the town appraiser/assistant assessor in Burlington.

Asked to comment Oct. 4, he declined to do so. 

Assigned to the case is Gordon J. Piper, chief justice, land court.

Aug. 23, 2020: Heights' first hotel approved as neighbors wary

July 8, 2020: Further traffic study puts off Heights hotel plan to Aug. 17
May 19, 2020: Mass. Ave., hotel developers told to come back in July
May 3, 2020: Toraya closes as 22-apartment project planned for block
Jan. 30, 2020: Proposed Heights hotel-restaurant draws opposition
July 26, 2019: Hearing held for town's 2nd hotel proposed near Heights
March 11, 2015: Articles to regulate signs, sell DAV, support master plan supported

Nov. 26, 2014: Short-term tenancy for former DAV could lead to co-working

This news summary was published Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, and updated Oct. 4, to report no comment from the developer, and Oct. 6, to add comment from town counsel.

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