Boston.com reported this past week that a large 40B project in Needham was turned down by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.   According to the article, the ZBA said “that the project would also have to follow town setback, elevation and open space requirements, and that the developer would have to pay for a traffic signal there.”.  The developer is planning on appealing to the state’s Housing Appeal Committee.

An interesting detail is that this project wouldhave put Needham above the 10% threshold for 40B affordable housing.  That means that if it was built, the town would not be required to accept future 40B projects so long as they remained above that threshold.

Here’s what puzzles me about the story:

As I understood the 40B rules, a developer by law is able to sidestep most of the town’s zoning laws.  Yet in this case, the town seems to be applying all its zoning laws and turning down the project based on it’s non-compliance.   I had always understood that this was not an option under the law.

So what’s going on?   Does a town have more leeway than I imagined in reviewing 40B compliance with local zoning laws?  Or is this just a stalling action by the town of Needham that is sure to be automatically overturned on appeal?

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