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Montague school project gets early ZBA OK

TURNERS FALLS — Over the continued objections of Montague Center residents, the Zoning Board of Appeals has endorsed Mark Zaccheo’s plan for apartments in the former Montague Center School.

The board approved Mark Zaccheo’s request for two special permits and a variance with stipulations attached to the two permits and the understanding that Zaccheo will return to the board for the more detailed site plan review.

Zaccheo proposes to purchase the disused structure at 15 School St. for redevelopment into a 22-apartment building.

Wednesday’s meeting was the second continuation of the public hearing begun in August and residents turned out in force a third time, with a vocal majority opposing the plan.

Residents objected to particulars of the town process and details of the plans as well as to the overall concept of a large apartment building with worries that an influx of renters would change the character of the neighborhood with traffic, lights and noise.

Zaccheo applied for two special permits — to allow multi-family use on land zoned as a neighborhood business district and a reduction in the minimum lot area — and a variance to allow up to 10 apartments smaller than the minimum floor area of 700 square feet.

Zaccheo’s plans call for 33 bedrooms in 22 apartments, one apartment in the 400-square-foot range, four between 500 and 600 square feet, three between 600 and 700 square feet and 14 larger than 700 square feet.

Sam Lovejoy of Main Street said granting the variance to the 700-square-foot minimum would create a precedent and lead to the creation of smaller apartments throughout town and harm property values and community life.

“We’re walking backwards into Sunderland,” Lovejoy said. “I promise you, over time, you’re going to destabilize Montague Center. It’s going to become like Sunderland: a bedroom community for student and grad student housing.”

Allen Ross of Taylor Hill Road supported the proposal, saying the town faced continued expense and risked a worse use if Zaccheo’s plan were rejected.

“Some people will lose a little, the town will gain a little,” Ross said.

Following extended discussion of the board’s jurisdiction and deadlines to issue a decision, the board voted 4-1 to approve the two special permits with the stipulations that issues of lighting, fire safety, drainage, parking, traffic at the Court Square intersection and trash receptacle placement be resolved, and review of the management plan completed.

In a separate vote, the board again voted 4-1 to grant the variance without stipulations.

In both cases, John Reynolds, Robert Sojka, Allen Ripingill and Ernest Brown voted in favor and John Burek against.

The votes came after Zaccheo agreed to return to the board for site-plan review, the process addressing the technical details of the plan.

Inspector of Buildings David Jensen said due to overlapping jurisdiction with the Planning Board, Zaccheo had the option to choose which board to proceed with.

Due to the size of the development and its location in the town Water Supply Protection District, Zaccheo must also apply to the Planning Board for the special permit required for paving that would render impervious more than 20 percent of any lot in the overlay district.

Thursday evening the Conservation Commission was scheduled to open a public hearing on a notice of intent filed by Zaccheo for driveway and parking space, ground mounted solar panels and associated storm water management.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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