1688 Central Ave. Credit: Georgina Arrieta-Ruetenik

Massachusetts Land Court Judge Jennifer Roberts issued a judgment Tuesday, affirming her decision of last week that the Planning Board exceeded its authority in its handling of the application by Needham Enterprises to build a day care center at 1688 Central Ave.

The judgment annuls the Planning Board’s actions on the permit application from March 2022, which means Needham Enterprises owner Matt Borrelli is “entitled to apply for a building permit without further action by the Board.”

Roberts ruled that the day care project “complies with the dimensional requirements of the local zoning bylaws and (pursuant to state law) is not subject to further review.”

In her decision last week, Roberts backed Needham Enterprises’ argument that, under the Dover Amendment, a child care facility is a “protected use” exempt from the level of review that was ultimately conducted.

The Planning Board as a whole and the four members who voted on the application are the named defendants and therefore have standing to appeal. According to sources, the Planning Board is expected to meet jointly with the Select Board in the near future to discuss whether an appeal will be sought. 

However, because the Planning Board has no authority to appropriate town funds, it is not clear how that appeal would be paid for. The Select Board does have the ability to authorize funding.

Tuesday’s judgment could bring an end to a protracted process that began in April 2020 when Needham Enterprises purchased the 3.47-acre property, which includes a 1,663-square-foot house, two garages and a 4,800-square-foot barn. 

Borrelli is proposing to build a 10,000-square-foot building that it intends to lease to the Needham Children’s Center (NCC), which would transfer its longstanding child care operation from the First Baptist Church on Great Plain Avenue to the new facility.

After nine months of hearings and deliberations, the Planning Board approved the permit application on March 3, 2022. That approval, however, came with numerous conditions that Needham Enterprises said made the project economically unfeasible, claiming the permit was effectively denied.

Needham Enterprises filed suit on March 23, 2022, naming the Planning Board and its individual members — Paul Alpert, Adam Block, Martin Jacobs and Jeanne McKnight — and challenging the board’s decision on multiple grounds.

All parties to the case who were contacted Wednesday declined to comment on the judgment.

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