The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 28, 2008


Developer drops Coventry Woods appeal

On March 25 the Board of Selectmen (BOS) announced that the Coventry Woods 40B development will not be going forward. The developer, Coventry Woods Carlisle, LLC, represented by Mark O’Hagan of MCO Associates has allowed the option to buy the property to expire without renewal. As a result, its lawsuit appealing the Comprehensive Permit issued by the town last year cannot go forward because it “no longer has site control of the property involved in this appeal,” according to a statement issued by the BOS. The owner of the property, Pasquale Rotondo, had no comment.

This ends a three-year saga that involved town officials, several boards, engineers, abutters and numerous lawyers in an unsuccessful attempt to reach an agreement on the number and mix of units that would satisfy the developer while assuring protections for the town’s water and other environmental resources. The development, which was to be sited on 22.6 acres off Concord Street, was originally to have contained 56 units of housing of which 14 would have been affordable. Because 25% of the units were to be affordable, under Massachusetts 40B state laws, the project was able to bypass town zoning laws as long as it adhered to town regulations regarding health and environmental safety.

Hearings before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) opened in October 2005, and soon became mired in issues. Perhaps the largest was the potential impact on neighboring wells. Reductions in the number of units were proposed, including 48, and then 41 units.

When the ZBA issued the Comprehensive Permit in May of 2007, it contained 30 pages of conditions, including a reduction to 30 units of housing, of which eight would have been affordable. As a result, the developer instigated a lawsuit against the town to the state Housing Appeals Commission. That lawsuit will now not go forward, and the ZBA is expected to reconvene soon to vacate the Comprehensive Permit, rescinding authorization to develop the parcel as approved.

Selectman Doug Stevenson said those who spoke of the Coventry Woods outcome as a “victory” were mis-informed. “To say the town was trying to stop the development way oversimplifies what occurred here. We were defending the Comprehensive Permit which would have allowed 30 units. It was the decision of the applicant to withdraw.”

Selectman John Williams said the ZBA’s position on Coventry Woods should not be seen as anti-development, but as supporting development “in harmony with Carlisle environmental protection and the health and safety of our citizens.”

Williams also noted that new 40B regulations issued in February “have become even more difficult,” with hearings limited to 180 days and restrictions placed on what documentation can be requested. He cautioned that the conclusion of Coventry Woods “should not be interpreted as an indicator the Housing Appeals Court sided with the town. There is no sympathy there with the issues we think are important.”

The BOS letter looks back on the hearings as “a costly and challenging process.” Selectman Tim Hult acknowledged Tuesday that members of the ZBA, Williams, Stevenson and many others had spent “a ton of time trying to make this work for the town.” He noted that one of the lessons is to “get in front of the process” so the town can work with developers willing to address Carlisle’s concerns.

The BOS statement concluded with a summary of the difficult position occupied by those in charge of implementing town policies in the current environment, “The Board has attempted to meet its obligation of upholding long-standing Carlisle zoning by-laws that define our community as well as upholding local regulations that provide health and safety protections for the present and future residents of Carlisle, while at the same time adjusting to the realities of both local affordable housing policy as well as state-wide affordable housing policy driven primarily by Chapter 40B.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito