WILMINGTON, MA — As expected, Bettering LLC has filed suit against the Town of Wilmington and the Wilmington Zoning Board of Appeals in Massachusetts Superior Court over the Board’s recent denial of a special permit for a proposed detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue AND the board’s subsequent decision to “take no action” on a request by Bettering LLC for a reasonable accommodation.
Bettering LLC is accusing the board of violating (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (2) the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHHA), (3) the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (4) the Zoning Act’s anti-discripintion provision in Mass. General Law, and (5) the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Act.
“Over the course of the public hearings before the ZBA, Bettering presented uncontested, overwhelming and objective evidence that the Facility is inherently beneficial, and that no substantial detriment would result to the neighborhood or the Town,” reads the lawsuit. “No independent evidence was presented any of the hearings to establish negative criteria, challenge Bettering’s experts’ testimony, or offer objective reasons for the Board to vote to deny the permit. In fact, the Planning Board, Board of Health, Chief of Police and Town Engineer have reviewed the special permit application and approved Bettering’s plans. The lack of an evidentiary record to support the denial further proves the Defendants’ decision was based solely on the unsupported discriminatory statements and subjective opinions of residents and the ZBA members themselves.”
“After hearing all the evidence, the ZBA denied Bettering’s special permit and request for reasonable accommodation based on facially discriminatory reasoning and thinly-veiled pretext,” the lawsuit continues. “Simply stated, this case presents the familiar conflict between the legal principle of non-discrimination and the political principle of not-in-my-backyard.”
The lawsuit singles out ZBA members Lepore and Siracusa, who voted against the special permit request, for alleged “unlawful discrimination.”
“Two members of the ZBA, in an effort to appease their constituents, voted down the special permit application,” reads the lawsuit. “While members Lepore and Siracusa mentioned design, safety and quality of life concerns, those sentiments were pretext for other discriminatory purposes, and the ZBA’s empty support of a detox facility in a different location amounted to nothing more than a not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) defense premised on the perceived danger caused by those suffering from alcohol and drug dependency.”
Bettering LLC is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. The lawsuit reveals that Bettering LLC has invested an estimated $1.5 million in the property and facility, including approximately $1.2 million to purchase the premises. The company has has also paid $300,000 for permitting, design and pre-construction activities. In addition, Bettering LLC is claiming the unlawful delay in opening the facility has resulted in a variety of economic damages, including an estimated loss of profits in excess of $500,000.
“The ZBA has delayed life-saving treatment desperately needed by Bettering’s prospective patients who reside in and our the Town of Wilmington, jeopardized Bettering’s significant investment in the project, and caused Bettering and its prospective patients to suffer immediate and irreparable harm,” the lawsuit alleges.
The full 25-page appeal can be read HERE.
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