The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Jan. 18 not to revoke the building permit issued in September by Needham’s building commissioner for the construction of a childcare center at 1688 Central Ave.
A group of nine abutters to the property had objected to the permit on multiple grounds. They included a claim that the project had not gone through a site plan review process that they assert was required, that the 4,800-square-foot barn on the property was an illegal accessory building, and that the project lacked adequate plans for stormwater management, erosion control and landscaping.
The ZBA heard testimony on those and other issues at its November and December meetings. The hearing was closed at the conclusion of the December meeting. At that time, the three voting members of the ZBA offered their preliminary opinions that they did not have grounds to revoke the permit.
At last week’s meeting, ZBA Acting Chair Howard Goldman and members Peter Friedenberg and Valentina Elzon all confirmed their original opinions and voted to uphold the permit.
The three members reviewed the key issues of the case and, in each instance, found that either the ZBA lacked authority or the project had Dover Amendment protections that superseded town regulatory authority.
Holly Clarke, one of the nine abutters, indicated that she and her fellow appellants are strongly considering appealing the ZBA decision.
Childcare centers, along with educational, religious and agricultural purposes, are among the land uses exempted from certain local zoning regulations under the Dover Amendment, a state law passed in 1950.
Needham Enterprises is developing the 10,000-square-foot childcare center with plans to lease it to the Needham Children’s Center, currently operating at the First Baptist Church on Great Plain Avenue. It invoked the Dover Amendment when it first approached the Planning Board regarding the project in early 2021.
The project went through a nine-month Planning Board review before receiving a highly conditioned special permit in March 2022. Needham Enterprises, owned by former Select Board member Matt Borrelli, appealed the Planning Board’s decision in Land Court, claiming the conditions imposed were in violation of the project’s Dover Amendment protections.
That process consumed more than a year and ended with Needham Enterprises winning at trial in August of last year — although aspects of that decision are also under appeal by the same abutters who appealed the building permit.
Needham Enterprises has begun construction on the building, even with the multiple appeals hanging over the project.