Town Building Commissioner to Inspect a Housing Authority Community Building at Linden/Chambers for Zoning Use Violations


NEEDHAM, MA  -   On February 21, 2024, the Needham Building Commissioner, Joseph Prondak, wrote a letter to the Needham Housing Authority (NHA) regarding a complaint the Town received that the building at 164 Linden Street was now being used as a maintenance building, in violation of a zoning use ordinance.

In 1961, in a zoning district that normally allows only single-family dwellings, the Needham Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance to the Authority that permitted the construction of multi-family units with 164 Linden as a community building.

The Authority is being asked to arrange for an inspection of the premises for what may be considered a violation of the variance granted in 1961.  The Town may be obligated to cite the Authority with a 30 day order to comply with the allowed zoning.

Control of community space has become an issue.   164 Linden was taken over about 15 years ago by the director of maintenance for the storage of building supplies, cabinets, and plumbing fixtures, plus seasonal equipment.  The tenant neighbors, especially within close proximity, do not see this as the highest and best use.

In the Fall of 2023, at a regular NHA Board meeting, one Commissioner, speaking at the behest of a resident, asked that the Executive Director look into resolving the use of 164 Linden Street.   The immediate response from the Chair, Reggie Foster, was that 164 Linden was likely to be the first building to be torn down.  Executive Director Cheryl Gosman said that she was there to let the residents know that the redevelopment of Linden Street was going to go forward.

The community building at 164 Linden has been discussed for years with past Commissioners and Directors.  As early as 2014, I wrote a letter to Debra Jordan , the Executive Director of NHA at the time, to ask that the building be restored to its original use.  That effort was side tracked by a winter storm that damaged one of the NHA properties which then took all the time and attention of the building managers.  Later, another Executive Director, Angie Madeiros, gave me access to the site plans in the building, including construction documents, some of which went back to the beginning and included details from the modernization programs.  The pandemic changed our plans for opening the building as a community design center.

Just this month I requested that the NHA Board consider adding the matter of 164 linden Street to the February Regular NHA meeting,  but the Chair and the Executive Director, who prepare the Agenda, were against it.  If and when the zoning violation complaint comes up for discussion, Tenants will ask that the Authority not appeal the obvious violation, and instead proceed with compliance.

It is something of an ironic coincidence, that the Authority is seeking further zoning variances for the redevelopment of the Linden Street housing units, when they may be in violation of the currently permitted variances.

The public hearing on the Authority's requests for additional zoning changes is scheduled for Tuesday February 27, 2024.    

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