The Fight Against The Constitution Inn Project Continues With a Lawsuit

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Last week, 11 Charlestown residents filed a lawsuit against the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), its director, its board, Mayor Michelle Wu, and the proponents of a permanent supportive and affordable housing project at the site of the old Constitution Inn which was approved by the agency’s board in December.

The lawsuit comes off the heels of a letter sent to the BPDA’s Director James Arthur Jemison by the law firm Mirrione, Shaughnessy & Uitti, LLC, on behalf of the Neighborhood Voice Alliance back in December in an attempt to put a halt to the project which has seen a significant amount of opposition since it was first proposed in 2022. 

The abovementioned letter was a formal complaint against the agency for “continued violations of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, §§ 18-25, at the BPDA’s public meetings held via Zoom on October 19, 2023, and December 14, 2023.”

Fast forward to now, Mirrione, Shaughnessy & Uitti, LLC has now submitted the newly filed lawsuit to stop the project dubbed The Independence at Charlestown Navy Yard in its tracks.

The Independence, previously known as the Helm on Third, is a project put forth by the Planning Office for Urban Affairs (POUA) and St. Francis House, which would bring 100 affordable rental units to the site at 150 Third Avenue — 48 of which are permanent supportive housing (PSH) units — 32 for women and 16 for veterans.

The PSH model, as described by a BPDA news update on the project’s approval, “combines providing deeply affordable, permanent, leased housing for individuals experiencing homelessness with tailored individualized services to assist people with disabilities to live successfully in the community long term.”

The project contains features such as 24/7 private concierge-style security, staffing that “exceed best practice standards,” per POUA’s President Bill Grogan, and background checks for those who would live in the PSH units, among other items.

Even with all this said, as mentioned, many residents have had grave concerns about the proposal and the BPDA’s process of approving the project, which led to the lawsuit filed last week.

The lawsuit alleges that the BPDA’s decision to approve the project “is based on errors of law, is unsupported by substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious.”

It claims, “The conclusions and determinations expressed in the BPDA Decision are unsupported by facts.”

Specifically, the lawsuit asserts that the BPDA “refused to take into account” more than 100 emails and letters sent to the BPDA in opposition to the project, along with opposing testimony from a public meeting on Zoom in October.

Moreover, the suit asserts that the BPDA did not follow the city’s Article 80 Review requirements, pointed to the agency waiving the creation of an impact advisory group (IAG), and claimed the BPDA “waived the public review requirement.”

“Most egregiously, the BPDA’s conduct in precluding the public to participate in the review process amounts to a violation of the Plaintiffs’ right to assemble, right to free speech, and right to engage in petitioning activity, as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” reads the suit.

While Brittany Comak, the BPDA’s Assistant Director of Communications, told the Patriot-Bridge the agency would not be commenting on the lawsuit, she did pass along a statement regarding why an IAG was waived, which was similar to a statement shared with the Patriot-Bridge back in December.

“There is no legal requirement to convene an Impact Advisory Group. The BPDA and the Mayor’s office waived an IAG to align with the Mayor’s Executive Order related to Speeding the Production of Affordable Housing. IAGs are now waived for affordable housing projects with 60 percent or more of units at or below 100 percent AMI,” reads the statement.

It continues, “We also waived the IAG because IAGs are responsible for determining necessary mitigation and community benefits, which are not relevant in this project. Constitution Inn is an interior retrofit to accommodate a change of use from hotel to housing units, so the project would not generate significant impacts to the built environment, wind, shadow or traffic, and therefore would not require mitigation, and the community benefit from the project is predetermined as affordable housing.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the BPDA’s decision that allowed Jemison to assign the lease for the building to the proponents and to enter into an amendment, which happened during the same Board meeting in December where the project was approved, was unlawful.

“The Plaintiffs contend that the BPDA failed to comply with the Uniform Procurement Act, G.L. c. 30B, which requires governmental bodies to solicit all contracts for real property, including leases, prior to entering into such contracts,” reads the suit.

“Further, not only did the BPDA hand-select the Applicant to lease the Building without soliciting the lease beforehand, but the BPDA Board took less than three (3) minutes to

Approve — without any discussion — authorization for Defendant BPDA Director James Arthur Jemison to take such action during the BPDA Board meeting on December 14, 2023.”

Additionally, the lawsuit says the BPDA’s decision was “rubber-stamped” and outlines the concerns of the plaintiffs, who live near the development, regarding the impacts of the project.

The plaintiffs’ concerns surround safety, lack of parking, lack of services in terms of health needs and general amenities, overburdening of the local medical system, and more.

The abovementioned concerns were described in the lawsuit as “significant adverse harms that will impact Charlestown residents.”

Ultimately, the plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial on “all counts so triable.” Specifically, the suit lays out several counts of “claims for relief” for alleged violations of the development review procedures, the public procurement statute, and the state’s Civil Rights Act, alleged breach of fiduciary duty, alleged failure to comply with open meeting law, and alleged civil conspiracy.

The suit also identifies that the plaintiffs are requesting that the court either annul the project approval or reopen the public process in “conformance with the Open Meeting Law.”

The plaintiffs are also requesting that the BPDA decision concerning the lease be voided and that the agency “be required, pursuant to G.L. c 30B, to publicly solicit any lease related to the Building prior to entering into any such lease agreement,” among other requests, per the suit.

As previously noted, the BPDA did not comment on the lawsuit, and an attempt to get comments from POUA and St. Francis House was unsuccessful. 

To view the lawsuit, visit

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