Last night the Select Board issued a statement on the recent court decision vacating the permit for the large, controversial Park Central housing developments.
Chair Lisa Braccio stated:
The Select Board voted tonight in Executive Session to not participate in any appeal of the Park Central project. We respect the process and the decision rendered. Town Counsel has notified the defendant, Park Central LLC, of our position.
Developer William Depietri (Owner/Registered Agent of the LLC) still has about two weeks to file notice if he plans to appeal the ruling.
For those readers who aren’t fully familiar with the case. . .
The March 21st decision by Worcester Superior Court found in favor of residents appealing the Zoning Board of Appeals decision on Park Central.
In September 2016, project abutters charged that the ZBA was wrong in permitting conditions for a non-affordable housing project under a 40B permit. Conditions for a large 40A townhouse project were included under a permit for an affordable housing apartment/condo building project at the same site. The ZBA applied its authority under 40B laws to waive compliance with some conditions normally overseen by the Conservation Commission and Planning Board to the non-40B project.
The residents’ appeal was filed against both the ZBA and the developer. In the appeal, they also accused the three ZBA members as having acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
Access to attorneys by Town boards and committees requires the permission of the Select Board. That year, the Select Board, following advice of Town Counsel, chose to have Town Counsel defend the ZBA. That positioned the Town as co-defendants with the developer in the lawsuit.
Meanwhile the Board refused to allow the Planning Board access to special counsel to advise them in their own attempted appeal of the decision. Planning argued that the ZBA usurped its authority over the 40A project. Town Counsel advised that one Town board shouldn’t sue another. After repeated failed efforts to get legal support from the Town for its appeal, Planning was forced to drop its suit (and to pay sanctions).
Those decisions prompted a lot of anger from residents, then and in the years since, who have made comments at public meetings (and on the blog).
For more background on the Park Central project and the multiple related lawsuits, click here.
Updated (5/11/22 10:01 am): Well past the deadline for the developer to file a notice of an appeal, the Trial record doesn’t indicate that happened. Presumably, that means that if the developer wants to apply for a 40B on the parcel, he will have to start from scratch with a new application. And, under current zoning laws, there is no means to build the 40A project on the site.
Sorry, but this is not how it happened, at least from the apparent optics. Town counsel, Attorney Aldo Cipriano, was working very closely with the developer’s counsel from day 1. Leo Bartolini WAS REQUESTED by town counsel to hire him (this ZBA meeting and request is ON TAPE), and Leo Bartolini wrote a one paragraph memo signed by him requesting Cipriano as counsel. It was like watching a rehearsed play. Cipriano actually fed Bartolini his lines in the meeting. In hindsight, this would almost be comical, if the town didn’t waste six years of everyone’s time and money that could have been spent on roads or seniors etc.
Attorney Angelo P. Catanzaro and Attorney David Click represent the developer. See the licensing board for attorneys, the Board of Overseers website for the public admonishment of Catanzaro, which is self-explanatory. Cipriano and Catanzaro went to the same law school and were two peas in a pod in their attempt to and succeed in this “end run” around and “manipulation” of 40b law, attempting to defraud the town of permits and approvals, and actually succeeding to defraud at the ZBA level — and failing at the Planning Board and Conservation Commission levels. Why? Because YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS on Planning Board actually were RIGHT about the law and their application of it. They absolutely should have been provided legal counsel for the sake of the true and truthful proper legal path. But they were left hanging in the wind on their own by then BOS members Shea, Kolenda, and Rooney, who had their own wrongly contentious spin on the situation. (You will recall that Mr. Rooney, in public records, was admonished by the state to recuse himself from the matter, since he was an abutter to the proposed project by the developer AND a tenant in a building owned by the developer. Did that stop him? No. He attempted to call plaintiffs counsel during closing arguments for one last bit of who knows what.). All of this reflected a bias and advantage leaning toward one party over another that never should have happened. Thank God for the professionals on Planning Board, because they were right all along, while the inept bumbling audacious characters on ZBA plowed ahead with actually facilitating and granting the illegal approvals. Unbelievable. If these characters actually read 40B law and applied it correctly, it would have saved the town enormous time, effort, and huge taxpayer dollars. Money better spent elsewhere.
The court decision cites a “manipulation” and “end run” on 40B law. The manipulators in chief were these two attorneys, with the developers attorney acting as his direct agent and representative in this overreaching illegal “manipulation.” Upshot: every single one of these attorneys who propagated this illegal position under the law should be turned into the state and lose their licenses to practice law. Six years and countless dollars of illegal bullying bullshit is not ok. Misleading these boards is fraud.