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Residents sue ZBA over Montague Center School

MONTAGUE — Montague Center residents opposed to Greenfield developer Mark Zaccheo’s proposal to transform the former Montague Center School into an apartment building have appealed the Zoning Board of Appeals decision in favor of the development.

The ZBA on Oct. 17 endorsed Zaccheo’s plans with a 4-1 vote approving two special permits allowing multi-family use and a reduction in the minimum lot area and a variance allowing up to 10 apartments smaller than the 700-square-foot minimum floor area.

Eight of the School Street property’s neighbors filed a suit dated Nov. 19 in Franklin Housing Court naming the Zaccheo’s development company, the Montague Zoning Board of Appeals and members Ernest Brown, John Burek, John Reynolds, Robert Sojka and Alan Ripingill.

The plaintiffs are Mary Averill of 6 School St., Virginia Rose and Richard Dingman of 11 School St., Olga and Kenneth Holmberg of 3 School St., Jenne Merill of 9 School St. and Brian Pierce of 17 Station St.

The ZBA decision followed three public hearings, all well-attended by Montague Center residents and with a vocal majority opposing Zaccheo’s development plans on a variety of grounds.

Opponents held that Zaccheo’s plans would adversely impact the neighborhood with lights, sound and traffic generated by the 22 apartments, and that his financial hardship was self-created and not sufficient to warrant bylaw exemptions.

Zaccheo was the sole respondent to a Town Hall request for proposals to redevelop the property, which has sat vacant since the school district’s contentious closure of the elementary school in 2008.

Town officials have argued apartment use will return the building to the tax rolls and is the only proposal on the table for a building that risks becoming another in the town’s collection of vacant, crumbling buildings.

The appeal alleges that Zaccheo’s applications were insufficient to the requirements of the zoning laws and that the ZBA’s decisions were arbitrary and capricious and not adequately supported.

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

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