The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 20, 2002


Selectmen weigh in on 40B affordable housing project

The Massachusets Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing) has requested comments from Carlisle's selectmen on the 10-unit housing project proposed by builder Michael J. Kenny for the four-acre lot at 302 Lowell Street. Kenny appeared before the board of selectmen on December 10 to answer their questions about his project, named Laurel Hollow.

Kenny's proposal is being filed under the state's Chapter 40B comprehensive permit program, because it exceeds the housing density of one house per two acres allowed under Carlisle's zoning. 40B projects must have at least 25% of the housing designated as affordable housing. (For more information on comprehensive permits, see the October 11, issue of the Mosquito, on the web.)

Eight buildings, four acres

Laurel Hollow includes 40% affordable housing. The plan calls for six free-standing, three-bedroom homes each with 2,650 square feet of space, and two buildings containing 1,155 square-foot, two-bedroom duplexes. Three of the four affordable units would be reserved for town employees, residents or parents of residents. Three wells will serve the houses. The quality of Kenny's work was praised more than once and can be seen locally at his Hart Farm Estates subdivision off Curve Street.

The MassHousing eligibility application for Laurel Hollow lists sales prices of $175,000 for the affordable units and $695,000 for the market rate units. The application also includes a realtor's valuation of about $770,000 for the market units, comparing them to recent sales of similar homes in town. The total project costs an estimated $4.225 million and, according to 40B regulations, the builder is limited to no more than 20% profit or $845,000. That might not include the profit on the sale of the land. The builder bought the lot for $409,900 and has an agreement to sell it to his limited liability corporation, MKCKMK, LLC for $495,000.

Concerns were raised about the water resources. Selectman Vivian Chaput questioned the total of 26 bedrooms on the 4-acre lot. Board of health agent Linda Fantasia said that under the state's Title 5 regulations, 440 gallons/day of wastewater are allowed per acre (or about 18 bedrooms) using conventional septic system design, but up to 660 gallons/day are allowed if the wastewater receives additional treatment, which Kenny's plan includes.

Kenny said, "I seek no waiver in any shape or form [from Title 5 requirements]." Originally, his plans called for the use of an experimental water treatment technology, but he now proposes to use technology that has received state approval.

"I guess I'm still concerned about the septic system," Chaput said. "What happens if the system fails? Even with approval from the state, these things are not failsafe. There's no room to put in a back-up system on the site if the first one fails." She suggested reducing the number of bedrooms by replacing the third bedroom with a den or sitting room in some of the market rate units. The builder said he envisioned the market rate units appealing to older couples, and he thought that two of the three bedrooms would often be unused.

Chaput knew of towns that had limited similar projects to two-bedroom housing, and said, "I think that's something we ought to consider." The majority of the selectmen did not agree, but the board did agree that it would prefer the development to meet the standard Title 5 requirements of 440 gallons/day per acre, or about 18 bedrooms. Persevering on the septic system issue, Chaput asked the builder if he would be willing to bond the septic system.

Fantasia said, "There is also the question of water supply." She wondered if the zone of influence of the wells would be large enough to reduce the abutters' water supplies.

Selectman John Ballantine wished the development might contain a greater mix of housing - senior units as well as market rate and affordable units.

Ballantine asked why Kenny hadn't submitted the project as a local initiative project (LIP) where the developer works jointly with the town to build affordable housing. Kenny thought the 40B process gave him "more of a directed approach....With the LIP process, it can really take on a life of its own."

Another concern of the board was that the affordable units remain affordable in perpetuity. Unless restrictions are carefully drafted, the price of affordable housing can rise with each resale to the point where it becomes market rate housing.

On the positive side, selectman Chaput said, "I think the project is an attractive, well-located project, and we need the affordable housing."

Town administrator Madonna McKenzie summarized the board's conclusions in a letter to MassHousing in time to meet the December 16 deadline.

40B Seminar January 8

On January 8 there will be a public educational seminar on 40B issues in Westford at the police training room, starting at 5 p.m. There will be speakers from the Mass Housing Partnership and the New England School of Law.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito