Friday, February 18, 2005
Selectmen, neighbors blast condo developer
Valentine's Day is over and local residents showed no love for Marc O'Hagan and his 40B cookie cutter condo complex on Concord Street. Townspeople flocked to the February 15 Board of Selectmen meeting at the Town Hall to voice their displeasure as O'Hagan and Bruce Wheeler of Habitech Development LLC presented the latest variation of their proposed comprehensive development.
Chair Tim Hult began the meeting by asking everyone in the crowded Clark Room to remain civil and allow O'Hagan to make his presentation, after which town residents would have the opportunity for questions. O'Hagan displayed a large colored layout of the complex and several aerial photos of the development and surrounding countryside and began by explaining that they had made some modifications to the design in response to abutter's concerns. The condo development will now contain only 56 units instead of the original 66. The housing cluster will also be moved back away from Concord Street to partially hide its impact on the landscape and they have increased the setback from the existing residences.
56 units, down from 66
The 56 two-bedroom units will be housed in 15 buildings, 13 of which contain four units and two with twin units. The two end units in a four-unit building will feature a two-car garage, while the other two units in the center will each have a one-car garage. Each unit will have approximately 2,000 square feet of living space, not including the garage. There will be a basement in each building. The main portion of the complex contains eight buildings, all identical in appearance, placed side by side around a central common. A dogleg off the common will support seven more identical buildings, lined up side by side. O'Hagan seemed oblivious to the groans emanating from the audience as he displayed his proficiency in mass production.
14 affordable units
The condo complex will be age restricted, meaning that one person over age 55 needs to be present and children under age 18 are not allowed. There will be 14 affordable units, down from 17, in order to meet the requirement that 25% of the housing units qualify as affordable. Households that earn no more than 80% of the area median income, which in the metro-west area is $68,000, will qualify. An affordable unit will sell for approximately $155,000 or about one-quarter of the $600,000 that O'Hagan expects to get from the market- rate units. The housing complex will meet all Title 5 regulations, state and federal wetland laws, and local Board of Health bylaws. Up to 70% of the units can be reserved for town residents and employees.
8,400 gallons per day
Water for the complex will be supplied by four wells drilled in a local area in back of the main cluster. O'Hagan needs a total of 8,400 gallons per day to meet the needs of the residents, thus requiring each well to produce over 2,000 gallons daily. There will be several septic systems located around the complex, with one or two located under the common. "We will continue to listen and work with neighbors and abutters. Are there any questions?" he concluded.
The Selectmen got first dibs and chair Tim Hult asked whether O'Hagan had built any similar developments in surrounding towns. Habitech specializes in 40B complexes and has one in Bolton and a 52-unit complex on 40 acres in Harvard. On being asked about resale, O'Hagan said there will be a 99-year deed restriction to keep the units affordable, based on a discount that adapts to rising costs. He expects that the development will take 2 to 3 years to build and that the affordable units will be dispersed throughout the complex. He expects the units will be built when sold as opposed to mass construction of all 56.
Selectman John Ballantine drew a round of applause when he emphatically declared, "This is not Carlisle. You are using 40B to change our community!" Hult added, "The density is huge compared to what we are used to. Water is a big concern. The water needs, discharge and runoff are enormous issues." Doug Stevenson asked O'Hagan if he would consider a bond against damage to abutters' wells from excessive water use, but O'Hagan refused, saying they will comply with all regulations.
Selectman Tony Allison questioned O'Hagan's next course of action and all were distressed by the reply. "We will apply for eligibility to state agency MassHousing in the next week or so," said O'Hagan. "If we receive a positive response, we'll submit an application for a comprehensive permit to the Carlisle Zoning Board of Appeals." All of this could occur within 90 to120 days. "We will go forward as soon as the individual approvals occur." This puts our Carlisle Board of Appeals in the hot seat, because they will be criticized as ineffective if they approve the permit, and probably overruled by the state Housing Appeals Committee if they don't.
Water supply before bulldozers
When it was time for questions from the audience and Helen Heithaus of Palmer Way was the first with her hand up. "What happens if my well runs dry?" Citing her present need for a 1,000-foot- deep well, she was undoubtedly echoing the fears of all the abutters to this huge increase in water demand. Lura Taylor of Concord Street went one step further. "What happens if the development's wells run dry?" O'Hagan assured both that extensive testing will be done to ensure an adequate water supply, and if they don't have an adequate water supply, "nothing will get built." Alex Parker of Russell Street wondered whether the well testing would come first before the bulldozers come in and was assured that there would be "no roads until water." Parker also wanted to know where all the cars will park and O'Hagan pointed out numerous areas on the map that could be paved for parking. "Also, each driveway will accommodate two cars in addition to two more inside the garage."
Nick d'Arbeloff of Russell Street tried to zero in on the economics of the project. "What's your gross profit?" O'Hagan says he expects to clear about 10 to12% from the $30 million development, which would leave him with $3 million. "Why," asked d'Arbeloff, assuming that you can get a similar gross profit from a normal subdivision, "are you doing this type of development?" O'Hagan countered that 40B developments are his business. "I like dealing with affordable housing." Architect Deb Bentley of Heald Road had no kind words for the "cookie-cutterish" houses being proposed and questioned whether the 2,000 square feet might be a bit large for a retired couple. "Could you reduce the size of each unit" and thus reduce the overall impact of the complex? O'Hagan wouldn't hear of it and believes that modern households demand more room.
Can we stop this?
It remained for Ken Hoffman of Spencer Brook Lane to fire the final salvo. Based on his own personal experience with bedrock, he said, "I hope you've got lots of dynamite for digging those basements!" Then, looking straight at the head table, he drew cheers and applause by saying, "When can we meet without these guys so we can talk about how to stop this. I've had about enough!"
Chair Tim Hult tried to soothe the tense situation by assuring the audience that many people are working on this. Addressing O'Hagan, he continued, "This is more than a business deal for us. Many people have a lot invested in their homes." O'Hagan, who had held up amazingly well under fire, merely assured the attendees once again that he will continue to work with everyone for an amicable solution.
© 2005 The