Friday, May 25, 2007
Coventry Woods abutters sue ZBA and town, developer appeals ZBA decision
Abutters to the proposed Coventry Woods 40B development on Concord Street have become plaintiffs. On May 15, Michael Epstein and Heidi Kummer filed a complaint against the Coventry Woods developers and the individual members of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in Superior Court appealing the ZBA decision based on numerous events throughout the entire 40B proceeding, from the actual application and site control status to the granting of the special permit.
On May 16, Kenneth Hoffman and Louis Salemy also filed suit against the Coventry Woods developers, the ZBA, as well as the town of Carlisle in Land Court. They, too, allege many unlawful issues concerning the Coventry Woods 40B application and hearing process in their complaint. Furthermore, they request that the Land Court rule that many activities concerning water well quality and quantity must meet legal requirements set forth by state agencies (MassDEP and Mass General Law's Drinking Water Management Act, for example). In court documents obtained by the Carlisle Mosquito, the Epstein/Kummer complaint states "The Board approved the project with conditions, but the conditions do not protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the proposed Project or the real property or health, safety, and welfare of the Plaintiffs."
Also aggrieved by the ZBA decision is the applicant, Coventry Woods Carlisle, LLC. On May 16, the developer, as appellant, filed an "Appeal of Comprehensive Permit" in the Department of Housing and Community Development's Housing Appeals Committee (HAC). According to court documents, the appellant alleges "de facto denial" based on numerous reasons, one being "because [the decision] is arbitrary and capricious, and exceeds the authority of the [ZBA]."
The appellant asks HAC to "[d]eclare that the Decision is invalid as it regulates matters and imposes standards in excess of any applicable laws, rules, regulations" and to furthermore "[o]rder the [ZBA] to issue a Comprehensive Permit for the 48 Unit Project without the Conditions and granting the waivers from local laws which are necessary and appropriate to construct the 48 Unit Project." In the ZBA decision, the number of units was specified as "not to exceed 30 units."
Chapter 40B is a state statute that allows developers to bypass most local zoning regulations and file a comprehensive permit request with the ZBA as long as a minimum of 20 - 25% of the housing is affordable to those with low and moderate incomes.
According to the Department of Housing and Community Development's website (www.mass.gov/dhcd/components/SCP/ch40Bgl.htm), when cases appear before HAC, "the record has generally been in favor of allowing reasonable projects to move forward." In a survey of cases between 1970 and 2002, 415 cases have been appealed to HAC. 45% of cases were withdrawn, dismissed or settled. 24% of the cases were negotiated between the town and the developer. 31% of the cases were decided by HAC. Of those cases, 84% ruled in favor of the developer and 16% in favor of the town.
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