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NEWTON

Three abutters appeal Dunstan East 40B development in West Newton

A rendering of the Dunstan East mixed-use project in West Newton.
A rendering of the Dunstan East mixed-use project in West Newton.Mark Development

Three Newton abutters filed an appeal in Middlesex Superior Court against a Washington Street mixed-use development proposed under the state’s affordable housing law.

The plaintiffs argued in their court complaint that the project is too large and that officials overstepped their authority by approving its commercial portion.

In July, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved the Dunstan East project in a 4 to 1 vote. The project is expected to bring 234 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space to a 3-acre property at the corner of Dunstan and Washington streets in West Newton.

As part of the project, a 284-space parking garage would be built underground.

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Robert Korff, the principal of Mark Development, proposed the project under the state’s Chapter 40B law, which allows developers to ease local zoning in order to create affordable housing units.

As part of the approved project, Dunstan East would include 51 apartments for residents earning 80 percent or below the area median income: $81,000 for a three-person household, according to the city.

Eight additional apartments would be for residents earning at or below half the area median income, which is $51,000 for a family of three, according to the city.

Korff is providing $1.2 million to subsidize those units, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has said.

Fuller said Korff also would provide $335,000 for transportation improvements, and make a $515,000 payment to Newton’s sewer upgrade fund as part of the project.

The abutters who are plaintiffs in the court case — Cheryl Forte, Ruby H. Lee, and Tim K. Marks — are appealing the zoning board’s decision to approve a comprehensive permit for the project, according to the complaint.

Marks, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement that they are supportive of development at the site. The plaintiffs are also enthusiastic about the inclusion of significant affordable housing.

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“However, we have continuing concerns about the project’s overall size, density, and potential environmental impact on the surrounding Washington and Dunstan Streets area,” Marks said. “We believe these concerns were not adequately addressed by the Newton Zoning Board of Appeals before its approval of the project last month.”

Their appeal names the members of Newton’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the project’s developer.

Korff, in a statement, said the Dunstan East project was “carefully and fully” reviewed in compliance with all regulations by the zoning board.

He said that Mark Development took a number of steps to ensure the project “met the dual goals of creating affordable housing and honoring the major findings of the Washington Street Corridor study.”

“We are disappointed by this appeal — which is frivolous, not based in fact, and yet another NIMBY-based effort to stop the creation of a diverse supply of housing in our community,” Korff said in the statement.

The lawsuit had the support of RightSize Newton, a community group that has been critical of development in the city, the organization said in a statement.

“It is regrettable that the Zoning Board of Appeals did not insist on reduced density and more open space for the well-being of future residents of this development,” Randall Block, president of RightSize Newton, said in the statement. “Thanks to the lawsuit brought by our West Newton neighbors, Newton has a chance of getting a more reasonable development at this site.”

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Brooke Lipsitt, the chairwoman of the zoning board, said that the board’s lengthy decision speaks for itself.

“The neighbors have the right to appeal, and they have done that,” Lipsitt said. “The city will defend our decision.”

Fuller, in a statement, said she is confident that the Zoning Board of Appeals weighed all of the factors surrounding the project, ”and arrived at a fair decision” in accordance with the affordable housing law.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.