Friday, March 18, 2005
Selectmen to respond to Concord St. 40B Letter to MassHousing to expose town concerns
On Tuesday the Selectmen and Cindy Nock of the Board of Appeals met with Arthur Kreiger and Dan Hill of Anderson and Kreiger, the town's newly-appointed special counsel on 40B issues, to discuss responding to a letter from MassHousing regarding the proposed development on Concord Street. Currently 56 units of senior housing are planned at that 23-acre site under the state's 40B regulation, which allows a development that is 25% affordable to circumvent local zoning laws in towns with inadequate numbers of affordable housing units. Carlisle currently has 18 affordable units or approximately 1.08% of all housing, far below the 10% required.
Hill said that a letter is unlikely to spark action by MassHousing, but should be used to get issues out early and put the developer on notice that accommodations will have to be made. In particular, issues regarding water, fire safety, and "smart growth" principles should be researched and documented. Although the developer will go before the Board of Health at a later date, "anything that affects public health, public safety, or the environment" is a fair concern to be raised up front.
Wells and wetlands
Hill noted in particular that the site's proximity to wells and to wetlands, a high water table, and a lack of public water or sewage should be emphasized as potential hazards to water quality and the environment. With 56 units discharging an average of 12,000 gallons of effluent per day, the developer will surpass the DEP threshold at which wastewater treatment will be required, and a discharge permit will be needed. Hill suggested a hydrogeological survey and engineering study to document potential problems. Fire and traffic safety should also be addressed. Sprinklers and on-site cisterns should be required, along with two methods of egress.
Doug Stevenson suggested requiring the developer to put forward a bond to protect neighbors from financial loss in case their wells or foundations are impacted by blasting at the site. Nock felt that since other sites are not required to do this, it might violate laws which prevent towns from burdening 40Bs with special requirements. But, Hill said, since there has not been a project of this size in town, a special requirement might be acceptable if backed with specific conditions.
No public transportation
"We don't have a lot of hay to make" on the issue of density, said Hill, noting that MassHousing's density threshold is around eight units per acre and this development is well below this. However, there is state interest in assuring that 40Bs are near public transportation, representing "Smart Growth." An issue may be made whether Concord and Billerica train stations are close enough.
Costs and profits
Another area for analysis is the reasonableness of cost and revenue projections presented by the developer. Developers of 40B projects must restrict their profit to a maximum of 20%.
John Ballantine wondered if, hypothetically, a permit were issued for affordable housing on the Benfield Land before the Concord Street project goes forward, could a moratorium on 40B developments in Carlisle take effect? Last year a law was passed which allows a one-year moratorium for towns achieving 0.75% of their affordable housing goal. Hill noted the calculation of the threshold is not clear as the new law has not been tested.
© 2005 The