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Owners of condos in four-story East Broadway building sue to block construction of four-story addition to building next door

The owners of the condos at 524 East Broadway, a four-story building near H Street in South Boston, today sued the Zoning Board of Appeal and the couple that owns the neighboring house, seeking to block construction of a four-story extension to the house next door, saying the board had some nerve approving a four-story addition that will harm them and set a precedent that will let owners of other smallish buildings over-densify the neighborhood.

In their suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the owners of the eight condo units charge that Lowell and Donna Marie Rans, who want to turn their one-family house into a four-unit building through a four-story addition in the back, failed to prove they had a "substantial hardship" that could only be fixed with variances for a project.

The Board's bare finding that there are special circumstances with respect to the Property, such as narrowness, shallowness or shape of the lot, are not legally sufficient reasons to support a finding that the conditions are peculiar to such land but not the neighborhood, or that such conditions deprive the owner of reasonable use of the Property. Not only is the property not unique or peculiar, it is very similar in size and shape to the surrounding lots of the neighborhood.

In contrast, they charge, the new be-decked additio, which the board approved in November, 2021, will deprive them of privacy and sun on one side of their building, is taller than allowed by the street's current zoning, is too close to their property line.

The closeness of the proposed dwelling to the Plaintiff's property and dwelling creates unnecessary security and safety risks by means of possible fire safety issues, water intrusion, and loss of privacy.

Their condo owner's building is also taller than would be allowed by current zoning and extends right to the property line as well, but is grandfathered in because it was built before current zoning was adopted.

In addition to zoning concerns, the owners say that construction of the addition will mean noise, dirt, odors and vibrations that will "certainly" harm them and that the building will only lead to further parking woes along Broadway.

Their complaint asks a judge to reverse the zoning board's decision.

Complete complaint (6.6M PDF).


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Lowell and Donna Marie Rans, who want to turn their one-family house into a four-unit building

I don't think it makes any difference, but it's current use is Land Use: R2 (and it would be massive for a single-family house at over 4,500 square feet).

That's the structure that was built before current zoning, allowing them to not comply. If they demo the house and build on the lot, the design of the addition would have to be modified to meet current zoning.


Variances are not extremely difficult to get, if you have a lawyer and architect who can adequately explain what they are seeking and why in detail. The people who run into problems are people who show up with inadequate plans that the board can't fully understand.

Or people whose projects are in Roslindale near ZBA chair Araujo's house.


She's too important to walk down to the square or hop on the bus on Belgrade. We must protect her right to drive from Newburg St down to the square and find parking easily at all costs.


Or people who contributed to the wrong candidate in some election

The system in which almost nothing is allowed by right and everything is done by variance is a perversion of the ideas behind having a zoning code and a variance process


The link to the complaint is not working.

Link fixed.

...was the day all gentrification should've stopped."

WE all lost neighbors, families, and beautiful views of the city because of these condo denizens and now *they* want to run the neighborhood.


yeah, basically their building is twice as long as 520, and they aren't ok with 520 becoming as long as their - look at the satellite view here: https://goo.gl/maps/aTXehXWX7JnT27LC9

It looks several decades old, in which case I'm way more sympathetic to a home owner who might lose a limited view of a backlot of a neighboring property for a 3' view to a piece of vinyl siding.

Update: it was built in 1999. So it's not exactly an old building but for me, I think old enough that people living in those condos are truly being negatively impacted if the neighbors are allowed to build an extension to the property lines at four stories.

524 is definitely over a century old by the looks of it. The plan from when they converted it into condos in 1981 - it's on the Suffolk Deeds website but I can't link to it - shows that the side walls are party walls built right on the property line. Looks like the back half has lots of windows in those party walls that might get bricked up if 520 is extended rearward. Sucks for the people that own condos back there, but those windows should have never been put in in the first place.

It sucks when these historic homes are converted into condos, but it looks like they are keeping the original house as it is and adding on an addition with more units. The height is pretty much the same as the original house too. At least these residents intend to live in one of these condos. There are worse developments happening on this block than this. This project looks conservative and tasteful. At least these folks did right by securing an easement for parking, getting feedback from neighbors, and modifying the project to compromise. Could be a lot worse.