The Walden Center for Education and Research, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has filed a request with Building Commissioner Michael Tusino for Dover amendment protection to build an educational complex at the former Marist Retreat Center, 518 Pleasant St.
Approval would enable Walden Center to build a proposed education complex without a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Walden Center shares much of the mission and some of the board members of Walden Behavioral Care, which has proposed a treatment center for eating disorders, mood disorders and obesity on the property.
The Dover amendment, which is Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40A, Section 3, allows use “for educational purposes” by a “nonprofit educational corporation” in any local zoning district, subject only to reasonable dimensional regulations and a limited site plan review by the Planning Board.
Concurrently, Walden Behavioral Care and The Marist Fathers of Boston, which owns the land, have appealed the ZBA decision denying Walden's application for a special permit. Two of the three members voted in favor of a special permit to allow Walden to move forward, but unanimous support was needed.
“While this was not our preferred course of action, it will enable us to move forward and create a project that we can all be proud of,” said Stuart Koman, who serves as President and CEO of both the Walden Center and Walden Behavioral Care. “When the project was reviewed by the ZBA, we agreed to nearly 30 permit conditions requested by the ZBA and the neighborhood. Without ZBA approval, we were forced to take a different approach.”
The Walden Center’s emphasis on education is in line with Walden Behavioral Care’s corporate vision, according to Koman, who said that the non-profit Walden Center was created more than a year ago because of the need for greater education and research in the field of neurobehavioral disorders, such as eating disorders and mood disorders.
Articles of organization for the nonprofit group were initially filed in 2002.
The recently announced School-Based Eating Disorder Prevention Program is the first Walden Center program.
Walden Center will also provide education for professionals and students to help them assist those who suffer from neurobehavioral disorders. Education, through individual, group and family therapy, is also an essential part of the treatment process for those with neurobehavioral disorders, Koman said.
Revised plans for the Marist Center project call for the construction of four new buildings, including a two-story center for education and research. The new buildings would add 57,000 square feet of new construction to the campus, which already has two buildings totaling 50,000 square feet. That’s still far less than the nearly 600,000 square foot facility a public hospital could build by right and without conditions, Koman said.
“We appreciate the support we’ve received from many residents and will continue to work with supporters and those who have not yet shown their support,” Koman said. “We remain committed to bringing a world-class facility to MetroWest and believe this project can do much good for the Town of Framingham.”
Walden Center for Education and Research, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in the education about and research of neurobehavioral disorders, such as eating disorders, mood disorders and obesity.