This afternoon the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield voted to approve the Gatehouse application for its 40B project on West Street by a 2-1 vote. Zoning Board of Appeals chair Bob Sylvia was the dissenting vote, and reportedly resigned from the ZBA after the vote. Bob had served on the ZBA and been its chair for forty years.
Bob Sylvia was arguing for an approval for sixty units. However, the town’s legal consultant for the Gatehouse application, Mark Bobrowski, and the town counsel, Mark Cerel, both opined that such a large reduction in the number of approved units would allow Gatehouse to easily have the ZBA decision reversed by the state Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) as a constructive denial.
Mark Bobrowski had been earlier tasked by the ZBA to write a draft decision, including what concessions he thought legally achievable and appropriate. Bob Sylvia disagreed with that draft, and he then recently undertook to author his own alternative version of an approval decision.
The Zoning Board of Appeals faced a Hobson’s choice, per the counsel it got from Mark Cerel and Mark Bobrowski. The classic legal advice is that the ZBA has to approve such a 40B application, but with reasonable conditions, if it hopes to survive a developer’s appeals of its decision to the HAC. The strategy for the ZBA is to know just how far they can push the concessions in their decision, and still have the decision upheld by the HAC. The ZBA’s disagreement today was apparently over just how far out the ZBA decision could successfully push that line, and skilled attorneys disagreed over where that line could safely to be drawn for Medfield.
Of the other ZBA members, Russ Hallisey is an attorney who deals with real estate issues, and Charlie Peck is a banker.
It is too bad that a professional disagreement amongst attorneys resulted in the resignation of Bob Sylvia, an attorney who has successfully volunteered for and lead the ZBA for forty years. I served for ten years on the ZBA with Bob, and have great respect and admiration for his leadership of that body that I witnessed.