Health center shot down Friday, March 24, 2006
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The fate of a proposed downtown health center is headed to court after the Planning Board last night voted to deny a special permit for the building at 380 Waverley St.

Chairman Tom Mahoney, Vice Chairwoman Ann Welles and member Carol Spack supported the application by Murphy & McManus for Great Brook Valley Health Center to operate the new facility, but four votes were needed for it to pass.

Members Sue Bernstein and Andrea Carr-Evans went against the proposal, but health center officials said immediately afterward they would take it to either Land Court or Middlesex Superior Court shortly after the decision is filed.

Neither Bernstein nor Carr-Evans would comment after the hearing.  Bernstein, who had stated her opposition to the plan months ago, read a statement before the vote, instead urging supporters to push for legislative help.

"Instead of spending millions of dollars building a free health clinic, (legislators) could adopt a plan whereby each of you would have your own health plan and could visit any doctor of your choice," said Bernstein in the statement.

That approach did not impress the project developers.

"(The vote was) not a surprise," said Zoila Torres Feldman, president and CEO of Great Brook Valley Health Center.  "As soon as they file (the decision), we'll appeal.  We'll get it done.  I just wish it was more efficient and cost-effective."

For the third meeting in a row, supporters from several bilingual churches came out to show their support for the health center, which was slated to serve people in about 25 cities and towns around Framingham.

Brothers Jim and Joe Rizoli taped the proceedings on a hand-held video camera, presumably to use the footage on a future episode of "Illegal Immigration Chat."

Marcos Contreras, a St. Tarcisius parishioner and one of the organizers of Metropolitan Interfaith Congregations Acting for Hope, told the group after the vote to "stay together as a team" despite the result.

The Rev. Alberto Stankard of St. Stephen’s Church called the board's vote "just a setback," predicting more pushes to revive the project.

Meanwhile, Winter Street resident Judy Leerer, who came to last night's two-hour discussion with several signs pushing for a "No" vote, was relieved with the outcome.

"This is geared toward 25 communities, not just Framingham," said Leerer, a member of Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl.  "I don't think that helps the town at all."

Fellow STEPPS member Peter Adams wondered why Great Brook did not look at a more regional approach to building, saying he would have preferred to see a number of smaller clinics rather than one for more than two-dozen communities.

The board voted after its denial on three special permits -- one for use, one for the reduction in the number of required parking spaces, and one for its exemption of the minimum number of spaces -- on site plan review and a public way access permit.  Only Mahoney supported the latter two motions.

Welles and Spack explained they voted against the efforts after the special permits were denied, mainly to avoid confusion or cluttering the ensuing paperwork.

Murphy & McManus and Great Brook submitted the special permit in May 2004, two months after opening what it called a temporary health center on Concord Street.  The public hearing on the new center ran from June 2004 to January.

Great Brook bought the property at 380 Waverley St. in August 2004 for $1.3 million and had proposed to build a $7.1 million center.

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