The Planning and Zoning Commission has again refused to give its blessings to a plan for a new synagogue on Ludlow Road.
After a lengthy review of the issues in the latest application by Beit Chaverim Synagogue, the P&Z voted 4-3 to deny the proposal.
The plan called for construction of an approximately 4,000-square-foot, one-story building at 24 Ludlow Road. The existing structures -- a vacant three-story building and a cottage with one tenant -- on the land would be demolished. The P&Z in 2008 had rejected a plan to convert the larger building into a house of worship.
While the congregation has the option of appealing the decision in court, it also still could move forward with a different proposal to build a synagogue on the site that the P&Z approved in 2009.
"None of us has taken this lightly at all," said Chairwoman Catherine Walsh, who voted to deny the request, along with Alfred Gratix, Chip Stephens and Tim Wetmore. "This has been a very difficult situation."
Ron Corwin, Nora Jinishian and Howard Lathrop voted in favor.
The denial included dozens of points of non-compliance in the application, including the increased floor area and parking, as well as a greater intensity of use. Several aspects of the plan were also cited as having changed since the 2009 approval.
Larry Weisman, the lawyer for Beit Chaverim, had previously argued that the latest application was, in essence, the same as the earlier one that had been approved.
"I think I've seen enough (and ) I think it's substantially different," Walsh said.
"I do believe that the commission spent long hours, not only in meetings but putting things together," Stephens said. "I think we've looked at this rather strongly and I think we've come to our opinions after doing much diligence and much due work."
"The good thing for the congregation is that they still have a site plan and they can still build up until 2020," Walsh said, referring to the earlier decision.
While Weisman or members of the congregation did not attend the meeting, several Ludlow Road neighbors were on hand, along with their lawyer, Steve Nevas.
"We have no idea what they're going to do," Nevas said of Beit Chaverim's future plans. "But the real story is this neighborhood -- 22 families -- came together to help the Planning and Zoning Commission understand the impact that this proposal would have on a quiet and historic neighborhood."
"The question now is whether the congregation will appeal the decision to the Superior Court, which they have a right to do." Nevas said, however, given what he called "a formidable list" of reasons for the commission's denial, such an effort "might be futile."