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Zoning lawsuit brings Massachusetts condo project to halt

A zoning lawsuit can seriously delay a construction project, racking up substantial fees and potentially other consequences. With the help of a real estate and commercial law firm, however, such delays might be avoided. If that's not possible, the opportunity for a settlement might arise through negotiations.

In a recent example, a third party challenge to an approval from a Massachusetts zoning authority has effectively put a proposed six-building, 200-unit condo project on the back burner for nearly two years.

Specifically, Whole Foods filed an appeal in Massachusetts Land Court, objecting to the Medford Zoning Board of Appeals' approval of the condo project. The grocery chain has a bakery facility and regional distribution center adjacent to the proposed development site. Tractor-trailers depart from the center with distribution schedules that stretch to both coasts.

The basis of Whole Foods' objection is three-fold. First, Whole Foods has concerns over how the condo complex might negatively impact the center's fair market value. In addition, the facility is also operated around-the-clock, and Whole Foods fears that its 24-hour operations would invite noise complaints from future condo residents. Mixed-use of the area might also create congestion, with residential traffic interfering with the trucks.

Perhaps most importantly, Whole Foods points out that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Project has not yet approved the site for residential use. In the early 1990s, an aircraft manufacturing facility closed by General Electric apparently left hazardous chemicals at the location.

After months of negotiations, the parties might be close to a settlement. In addition to revised plans that call for smaller buildings and slightly fewer units, the settlement proposal would require the developer to install a visual and sound barrier between its buildings and Whole Foods' property.

Source:  Wicked Local, "New six building condo complex planned on Middlesex Avenue," Alex Ruppenthal, Sept. 1, 2016

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