VNA of Greater Boston v. various South Street Residents; Massachusetts Land Court
The VNA purchased a historic brick federal-style building in need of extensive renovation, sited on 6 acres of land, intending to renovate it for a residential hospice house for terminal elderly cancer patients. The land was in the estate section of Needham, where lots averaged nearly 5 acres in size. A group of abutters and more distant neighbors formed an association, hired a large Boston law firm, and set out to defeat the VNA's plans. After a three-night hearing the Needham Zoning Board rejected the VNA's request for a special permit, as well as its arguments under the federal Fair Housing Act that it was entitled to the permit. VNA appealed to the Land Court. Fortunately, the hospice house was supported by the Needham Board of Selectmen. While the Land Court case was progressing, Attorney Margolin, working closely with the Selectmen, drafted an amendment to the Needham zoning bylaw, making residential hospice houses by-right uses in certain zones including the South Street district. Stanley R. Tippett, a much-loved Needham resident and former Selectman, had terminal cancer. One of his last acts before he died was to sign, as the lead signatory, the petition seeking the zoning amendment. The Needham Town Meeting adopted the zoning change by a 224-12 vote. The hospice house, in its sixteenth year, is rightly named the Stanley Tippett Home.