Deliberations on Framingham veterans home to begin next month Wednesday, January 23, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - The Zoning Board of Appeals will begin its deliberations next month on SMOC's appeal of a denied building permit for a proposed home for homeless veterans after closing the case last night.

Building Commissioner Michael Foley ruled that Larry's Place, a proposed 19-resident group home at 90 Lincoln St., was not protected by the Dover Amendment because it was not primarily an educational use.

Foley said the three-level home also does not have sufficient common space.

"What we see here is a lodging house," said Precinct 10 Town Meeting member Kathie McCarthy.

SMOC attorney Marisa Pizzi argued that Dover Amendment projects, which are subject to less stringent local review, don't need a designated area for their educational uses. She said the living room, foyer and other spaces are big enough for educational activities.

The program, which would be the first of its kind in the area, includes a variety of career and educational counseling services along with Alcoholics Anonymous and other group meetings, said SMOC Chief Operating Officer Charles Gagnon. Other group activities include dining, cooking, eating and shopping.

All potential residents fill out applications, have face-to-face interviews and undergo background checks. They must sign a program agreement, requiring them to do household chores and pay monthly fees during their stay, he said.

The typical stay is between six and 12 months but there are no limits.

"There are lots of different things to make sure they succeed on their own terms," said Gagnon. "We don't want folks sitting in their rooms. We want them to live together. That's where they share a lot of experiences.

"The folks who are really successful are the ones out there connecting with the community," he said.

The zoning board will begin its deliberations Feb. 12.

Jim Bushard, a retired veteran who was in a veterans' shelter in Boston before moving to SMOC's Crossroads facility, is excited about the prospect of a home specifically for people with backgrounds like his.

"Larry's Place looks like heaven to me compared to where I've been," he said. "All I'm asking for is a hand."

Al Blais, vice president of the Framingham Veterans Council, urged zoning board members to overturn Foley's denial.

"This is about veterans who are in need," he said.

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