Friday, March 23, 2007
Coventry Woods morphs again: Now 48-units of age-restricted housing planned
Yet another twist occurred during the Coventry Woods 40B hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) last Wednesday night. Applicant Mark O'Hagan officially withdrew his 41-unit project plan and submitted a modified plan to the ZBA that contained 48 units and reintroduced the age-restricted criterion whereby at least one resident must be 55 years or older.
New project, old deadline
Despite the new submission, there was no retreat from the April 27 deadline for the ZBA to issue a decision on the project. The April date was part of an earlier agreement between the applicant and the board (see Mosquito, March 9.)
O'Hagan is seeking a comprehensive permit from the ZBA for the Coventry Woods project under state statute Chapter 40B which allows a developer to bypass most local zoning restrictions if at least 25% of the housing created meets state affordability guidelines. At most 11 units would be allowed by Carlisle's zoning for the 22.6-acre parcel on Concord Street before any restrictions such as ledge or wetlands are taken into account.
No engineering review needed?
O'Hagan addressed the ZBA: "The [impetus for] the plan was the proximity of the septic system to the Epstein/Stone well. The new plan substantially reduces the amount of septic in that area. To make all that work necessitates the additional units. From an engineering perspective, there has been a new subsurface drainage area added. The well layout stays the same although the flow has been reduced. It doesn't require any additional engineering review." The new plan purports to reduce the total number of gallons of water usage per day from 4600 to 3000 and the leeching field of septic system C has been moved from 150' to 204' feet away from the Epstein/Stone well.
ZBA Chairperson, Cindy Nock voiced dismay at the submission of the new 48-unit project plan less than six weeks before their deadline to reach a decision: "I think it's unreasonable to get another set of plans [at this point]. It's not our job to compare the plans. I don't see that we can go forward without peer review. I'm not comfortable with this."
Focus on drafting conditions for a safe project, says counsel
Rather than concentrate on project issues such as the number of units, ZBA counsel Art Krieger advised the board to concentrate on specifying the conditions and requirements of a project that would safeguard the health, welfare and safety of the abutters as well as the town. That is, the ZBA should determine the scope and conditions of what they believe an acceptable project would be. Krieger encouraged the board to spend the remainder of the session "just talking about" the 40B draft decision, keeping the number of units in the back of their minds for now.
This draft decision, prepared by Krieger, specifies acceptable conditions offered by town counsel, abutters and interested parties, Carlisle town boards, as well as peer review engineering experts, with which the applicant must comply in order to receive the 40B permit to develop the submitted project plan. Krieger advised: "You could take the position that the board could deny the 48-unit plan based on not enough time to peer review, etc. and could decide to approve the 41-unit plan with ... conditions." He advised, "You could have a 'working assumption' of what that end number of units could be." As input in understanding the number of units needed to make the project economically viable, the Board of Selectmen has authorized up to $4500 for an appraisal of the property, to be conducted by Avery and Associates.
Is site control a problem?
A seemingly critical issue that was raised by the abutter's attorney, Jon Witten, was the question of site control. According to Witten, the purchase and sale agreement of the Coventry Woods land expired on February 28. At that point, Witten maintains that the applicant lost site control over the project. "As of 2/28, this project was DOA because [the applicant] lost site control. Now, on 3/14, we have [the applicant's attorney] Levine stating that he'll get this letter. This project is dead." Lou Levine argued that the applicant did have the letter, stating that "no one told [him] to bring it" to the meeting, but that he would send it in to the board. Notice was made on record that the applicant has 60 days to prove site control.
Ultimately, the board discussed several key points in the draft decision for over three hours and continued the hearing to March 28 at 7 p.m. At the March 28 hearing, the applicant, abutters, the abutters' counsel, and interested parties are invited to speak publicly to the board with their feedback and concerns.
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