Friday, April 15, 2005
Selectmen detail concerns about Concord Street 40B
A draft letter to MassHousing drew a crowd of abutters of Coventry Woods, the proposed Concord Street comprehensive permit development, to the Board of Selectmen meeting on April 12. Special Town Counsel Arthur P. Kreiger, in a draft letter on behalf of the Board of Selectmen to Anne Good, MassHousing Production Analyst, outlined many concerns related to the project and stressed the need for developers Mark O'Hagan and Bruce Wheeler to work with local boards and officials in the planning process.
Carlisle must deliver a letter to MassHousing by April 15 outlining any concerns the town may have regarding the senior housing project. Only 14 of the 56 proposed homes in this development will be moderately priced; the rest are expected to sell for $537,500 to $637,500, well out of the range for most of Carlisle's senior citizens on fixed incomes.
In his draft letter, Kreiger emphasizes that Carlisle is not resistant to affordable housing. Citing the eight-unit townhouse development off Maple Street and another eight-unit project off Lowell Street, he states that the town affirmatively recognizes the need to accommodate housing affordable to a wide range of income levels and, in particular, to its employees and senior citizens who add to the fabric of the community. Carlisle is also currently engaged in the development of 26 affordable housing units on Benfield Parcel A acquired under the Community Preservation Act.
Kreiger then zeroes in on the jurisdictional issues. Habitech, the developer and current owner of the Concord Street land, is controlled by Bruce Wheeler, who is the principal of Coventry Woods Carlisle, LLC. However, the LLC does not exist in the Secretary of State's corporate database. If Wheeler created this LLC, it does not appear to have taken effect yet because the necessary paperwork has not been filed with the Secretary of State. Without a legal entity, Wheeler cannot demonstrate "project eligibility." Also, under Habitech's purchase and sale agreement, it must secure permits for a "single-family development." The proposed project is a multi-family development.
Limited profit requirement
Chapter 40B was designed to eliminate artificial barriers to the efficient and economic development of affordable housing, and not, as Kreiger states in his letter, to enrich property owners and developers at the expense of legitimate local planning concerns. As such, the town asks MassHousing to scrutinize closely the applicant's financial pro forma, project expense and income projections to ensure full compliance with limited dividend (personal profit) requirements.
Water quality and pollution
Environmental and public health concerns were also addressed as Krieger informed MassHousing's Anne Good that the building site is not served by public water or sewer. "The density of the project could jeopardize the purity of the domestic water supply in the area," said Kreiger, reflecting the concerns of many abutters. "The discharge of treated effluent from the proposed 56 townhouse units could contaminate the water supply for these private wells, as well as the private water source for the project itself." The project could also degrade wetland habitat on and abutting the site, with particular concern over disturbance to the wetland resource during construction, as well as post-construction threats from stormwater runoff, roadway salting, household chemicals, and other sources of contamination. As such, Kreiger asks MassHousing to ensure that Carlisle's Board of Appeals be provided with an accurate and comprehensive development plan and a comprehensive list of requested waivers from all applicable bylaws and regulations and a narrative justifying each request.
Single access road
Finally, Kreiger identifies public safety concerns, such as fire protection in a site not serviced by public water. The proposed project has a single point of access, which presents an inherent safety threat if that access becomes blocked or impassable. Limited access to the rear of the buildings raises concern in an age-restricted development as to whether adequate access is provided for emergency vehicles. The project is not consistent with smart growth principles being promoted by Governor Romney, being neither located near public transit nor anywhere near the town center.
Kreiger concludes by thanking MassHousing for their consideration and saying that the Board of Selectmen hopes that the applicant will continue to engage local boards and officials in the planning process, and that a development can be permitted that appropriately balances the Town's need for affordable housing with its important interests in protecting its natural resources and maximizing public health and safety.
The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 (Deb Belanger recused as abutter) to accept the basic points of the letter and to approve the final letter with minor edits. Several of the abutters informed the Board that they too have written letters to MassHousing and Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie will coordinate the final mailings in time to meet the April 15 deadline. Belanger informed the group that a completed draft of Carlisle's Affordable Housing Plan will be available in May for the Selectmen's review and approval. It will then be presented to the town at a public hearing. Belanger felt confident that the consultant who is assisting in the preparation is experienced and competent and Belanger expects the plan to be certified by the state on the first admission.
© 2005 The