ZBA Chairman Resigns After 40 Years Because of Board's Approval of 40B Project
Robert Sylvia resigned this afternoon as a member of the Board of Appeals on Zoning. Sylvia said the town needs to stand on principal and deny (or reduce) the project because it is bad for Medfield.
Robert Sylvia has served as a member of the Medfield Board of Appeals on Zoning for 40 years.
Sylvia resigned this afternoon after the majority of the board approved The Parc at Medfield, a 96-unit affordable housing development proposed by Gatehouse Group LLC, a move that Sylvia said was wrong for the town of Medfield.
Last week, the board reviewed a draft approval letter (with conditions) presented to them by their legal consultant.
Sylvia, a trial lawyer by profession, asked the board for one more week so that he could draft his own letter as he has done in several other applications over the years.
The ZBA met today to discuss Sylvia's draft and compare it to last week's draft approval letter.
Sylvia said he spent 30 to 40 hours over the last week drafting the the letter and said he could not approve the project because of the negative impact it would have on the town.
Other board members Russell Hallissey and Charles Peck thanked Sylvia for creating his draft which they appreciated, but ultimately voted to approve the project with conditions, saying that was the best strategy to protect the town.
Historically, the Housing Appeals Court overturns local decisions to reject affordable housing projects if the towns do not have 10 percent of its housing stock as affordable. Medfield has just over four percent.
Hallissey expressed concern that a denial would ultimately be overturned in the Housing Appeals Court. He agreed with town counsel Mark Cerel who said that approving the project with concessions, already agreed to by the applicant, made more sense then losing everything in the Housing Appeals Court.
Peck had previously voiced concerns over the impact on the town's wetlands and aquifer. Consulant Tom Houston attended the meeting and said he had discusssed that issue with the applicant and they were willing to make further concessions to further reduce the impact.
Sylvia maintained his position that he was fundamentally opposed to the project that he said "is bad for the town of Medfield" and said the town had to stand on principle and not be afraid to defend its position in court.
"I don't think it's right to build a project of this mass on that lot and I think we cn defend that argument logically [to the housing court]," he told the board. "I've drafted it to give the town a decision that's defensible."
To which town counsel Cerel said, "We're facing overwhelming obstacles."
After Hallissey proposed a motion to approve with conditions, Sylvia said he would not vote to approve the project, that he had wasted 40 hours work, and that he would be resigning from the board.
Sylvia said, "This is a volunteer job where I've contributed over 40 years of my life to the effort, and if Im so dumb that I can't get my colleagues to follow me in voting on something I feel is pretty important, then I shouldn't be here."
Board members and town counsel told Sylvia it was not necessary to resign, however, after the ZBA approved the project 2 to 1 (a simple majority was required) and adjourned its meeting at 3 p.m., Sylvia drafted his letter of resignation to the Board of Selectmen.
The ZBA will meet with its legal consultant on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Town House to finalize the approval and the conditions.