September 7, 2023
• A recent ruling may allow long-delayed plans for a children’s center to proceed.
Over two years after it was first brought in front of the Needham Planning Board, plans for the construction of a new facility for the Needham Children’s Center may be allowed to proceed. Having been subjected to substantial pushback from Town Departments and neighbors, the developer turned to the Massachusetts Land Court for relief from the restrictions being imposed. Municipal Producer Yuxiao Yuan recaps the case.
On August 22nd, the Massachusetts Land Court ruled in favor of Needham Enterprises, LLC, the developer behind the proposed a childcare facility at 1688 Central Avenue. In March 2022, the Needham Planning Board had approved a site plan for the daycare center, but imposed several conditions.
One significant condition required the demolition of an existing barn, to create a setback of 120 feet from Central Avenue as opposed to the developer’s proposal of a 64 foot setback. In response, Needham Enterprises filed an appeal with the Massachusetts Land Court, citing the Dover Amendment, which restricts towns and cities from imposing local zoning regulations on religious and educational institutions.
In the court’s verdict, the judge ruled that the Planning Board had overstepped its authority, thereby nullifying their decision. Additionally, the judge determined the project complied with the dimensional requirements in the local zoning bylaws. As a result, the developer can now proceed to apply for a building permit without further involvement from the Board, although the developer may choose to wait for a decision from the Town’s on whether to seek an appeal of the Land Court’s ruling.
In an effort to obtain a comment regarding this matter, we reached out to Planning Board Chair Adam Block. Block informed us that the Board will refrain from providing comments until after the Town reaches a decision on whether to appeal the decision.
The Planning Board will be holding a joint meeting with the Select Board on Monday, September 11th. They have scheduled an executive session for the purpose of discussing the potential continuation of the litigation.
Update: After this story was first published, the Select Board and Planning Board decided not to appeal the Land Court decision.