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Battle brewing between Jamaica Plain beer makers, affordable housing advocates

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Battle brewing between Jamaica Plain beer makers, affordable housing advocates

About 75 elderly people and their advocates demonstrated on Saturday outside a Jamaica Plain brewery that’s suing to try to stop an affordable housing project for seniors from being built next door.

Turtle Swamp Brewing is suing the developer, Jamaica Plain Development Corp., and the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals, which on Feb. 23 made exceptions to certain city codes, essentially giving the 39-unit development the OK.

“We have an urgent need in the community for affordable housing, particularly for low-income seniors, and to me it’s unconscionable that a local business would try to stop this project,” said Laura Foner, 77, of Jamaica Plain.

“In the 46 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen so many people forced to move,” Foner said. “They could no longer afford to live here because developers and landlords are putting greed over affordable housing. It’s a tragedy that didn’t have to happen.”

Turtle Swamp’s owner, John Lincecum, did not return a message requesting comment.

The brewery’s landlord, Monty Gold, also filed a lawsuit against the project only days after settling one against the Pine Street Inn that delayed that project from being built by a year.

Of the elderly housing project, Turtle Swamp’s lawsuit says: “In short, this development is too big, too close to its neighbors and does not provide parking or loading areas.”

The city zoning code caps the height of any project there at 35 feet, for example, but the building Jamaica Plain Development Corp. wants to build for seniors would be 56 feet — or five stories — high.

Last November, the city building inspector issued a zoning code refusal letter, denying a permit for the project on the grounds that it violates “numerous code provisions,” according to Turtle Swamp’s lawsuit.

But on Feb. 23, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to grant all of the requested code exceptions, including ones having to do with the height of the building and the lack of parking.

On Saturday, protesters showed up outside Turtle Swamp, wearing homemade shells on their backs.

City Councilor Kenzie Bok said she’s partnering with City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley, who represents the area, to change zoning regulations “to prevent bad-faith lawsuits like this.”

Alex Ponte-Capellan, a community organizer at Jamaica Plain-based City Life/Vida Urbana, a grassroots organization that says it fights for racial, social and economic justice, said he’s fearful of what might happen if the project isn’t built.

“JPNDC has had to spend a lot of money on these lawsuits, and if they continue, the company might have to sell,” he said. “If that happens, a luxury developer can swoop in, leaving those 39 people who were going to live here with nowhere to go.”

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