The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 4, 2007


ZBA grants Coventry Woods 40B permit

After 18 months of reviewing plans, hearing testimony and debating the scope of the proposed project, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) deliberated for 12 hours and subsequently granted the applicant, Coventry Woods, LLC a special permit to build the Coventry Woods 40B subdivision on the 22.6 acre parcel off Concord Street. This 40B project, however, is far from reaching the proverbial green light to commence construction.

The onus is now on the applicant, represented by Mark O'Hagan of MCO Associates, to produce a finalized, engineered site plan with calculations for the construction of roadways, related infrastructure, storm water management, the approved septic systems, and the approved water supply wells for review by the ZBA to ensure that it is consistent and in conformity with their decision. O'Hagan has 24 months to begin roadway construction, which can commence once the ZBA has given their approval of the finalized site plan.

During deliberations, the ZBA carefully considered the wording of each of the 30 pages of conditions imposed on the project. All requirements outlined in the decision, according to ZBA attorney Dan Hill, "need to be based on fact, reference or law. Vague language is not favored by [the Housing Appeals Committee]. The draft decision needs to be defensible." As ZBA member Steve Hinton stated while crafting the wording of a pre-and post-blasting well testing requirement during deliberations, "We need something that will hold up in a court of law."

Key conditions specified in the draft decision are as follows:

  • The subdivision may not contain more than 30 units (down from 56, 48, and 41 proposed housing units).
  • The applicant must install three shallow overburden monitoring wells ("soldier wells") between soil absorption area "C" (a large septic system on the project plan) and the southern property line. These wells function as the proverbial canary in the mine to catch water quality problems early, before nearby abutter wells are affected.
  • Per the "Well Monitoring Plan and Protocol," water quality samples will be collected and tested from each abutting residence before blasting begins. If the post-blasting test results exceed the previous, pre-blasting test results by a "statistically significant" margin, the applicant is required to restore the abutters previous, original water quality at the applicant's expense.
  • The protective buffer surrounding the development must be 100 feet. On the southern boundary, which abuts conservation land, the buffer will be 40 feet.

In parallel with deliberating, the ZBA had sent a letter to MassHousing requesting "the status of the [Coventry Woods project's] 'fundability' under Chapter 40B" and ultimately requested that MassHousing rescind the Coventry Woods project eligibility letter as it had recently done in a seemingly related case in Sharon, Massachusetts called Pine Woods. In that 40B case, the developer declared his site acquisition costs to be $10 million when an independent appraisal returned a land value of $2.5 milllion. In Coventry Woods, O'Hagan declared in his pro forma, the list of projected expenses and revenues for the project, that his site acquisition cost was $3 million when the appraisal returned by Avery Associates was $1.6 million.

In the e-mail response of April 26 from Bob Russo of MassHousing to ZBA counsel, "We understand that there will be disagreements over appraisal figures. Sometimes, as in the case in Carlisle you inquire about, these differences may even exceed a million dollars. Indeed, this possibility was one of the reasons why the housing agencies in the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) Guidelines changed the appraisal process to have the subsidizing agency (or the Project Administrator) commission the appraisal (which, I note, was not the case here). The Sharon case was truly extraordinary and I wish to make clear that it should not be considered to be the rule."

MassHousing subsequently denied the ZBA's request to rescind the Coventry Woods project eligibility letter.

Regular ZBA hearings continue on May 3 at 8 p.m.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito