ZBA revises conditions for controversial garden center


PEPPERELL — The legal wranglings over expanded operations at the Nashoba Valley Garden Center may have finally reached resolution — at least temporarily.

After 18 months of back-and-forth bickering between abutters and property owners Louise and Bruce Taylor, the Zoning Board of Appeals last week revised a series of conditions attached to a special permit that upholds the operation of a trucking and hauling operation at the garden center on South Road (Route 119).

After the Superior Court voluntarily remanded the decision back to the ZBA following two appeals — by both the Taylors and a unified group of abutters from Brick Pond Way, South Road and Sherwood Forest — ZBA members fine-tuned their conditions to ensure that storage areas are properly shielded by stockade fences and that hours of operation are limited to appease neighbors.

The ZBA also clarified the duration of the special permit, saying it would only terminate if the property owners sold their land to an unrelated third party.

“It’s basically a new decision,” said town counsel Ned Richardson. “If the applicants don’t like it, then they can appeal again.”

“It’s basically a new decision,” said town counsel Ned Richardson. “If the applicants don’t like it, then they can appeal again.”

The controversy over the garden center grew over the last few years when the Taylors began using heavy commercial dump trucks to service a new landscaping arm of their business and started to store supplies near abutters’ lot lines.

The property was originally a tack shop that shifted to a garden center after zoning laws changed in the 1970s.

Neighbors, including Richard and Bernadette Baldwin of Brick Pond Way, claimed that the trucking operation is a non-conforming use of the residentially-zoned property and that the increased operations created extensive noise pollution and introduced contaminants into the soil near residential wells.

“We would never have bought that property if we knew that would be going on,” Bernadette Baldwin said last week.

The controversy, however, quickly morphed into a bitter legal battle involving the use of farm land that is surrounded by newer residential neighborhoods.

The Baldwins feel that the modified conditions may ease their concerns, but they are still skeptical.

“I still think that we’re going to have a problem with the building inspector enforcing (the conditions),” Bernadette Baldwin said. “This is supposed to be a bedroom community,” added Richard Baldwin. “I still don’t know how the ZBA determined that a trucking operation is not detrimental to three residential neighborhoods. (The conditions) are just more watered down than the last one.”

Property owners Louise and Bruce Taylor refused to answer questions following the decision, but both parties have hired attorneys to represent them during the dispute.

Once the ZBA files its decision, both sides will have 20 days to seek an appeal.

Although the Baldwins said that it is too early to determine whether they will seek another appeal, they are already armed with a litany of documents and pictures to support their cause.