Friday, November 28, 2008
Housing Authority interviews Benfield developers, hears public comments
Three firms interested in building senior affordable housing on the Benfield Land were interviewed by the Housing Authority in executive session meetings closed to the public on Monday, November 17, and Thursday, November 20. The opportunity for public comment was offered at the Thursday meeting at which John Rizzi and Selectman Alan Carpenito, both of South Street, were the only non-Housing Authority attendees.
The request for proposals (RFP) to erect 26 units of affordable senior rental housing on the town-owned land on South Street received three responses and the Housing Authority is currently in the process of review. After a brief look at the proposals, Rizzi reported that “First impressions are very good,” and he offered some observations on the styles proposed.
The three firms in the running are Common Ground Development Corporation of Lowell; JNJUHL & Associates, LLC. of Holliston; and Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) of East Boston. Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett said, “The engine that drives [the selection process] is the availability of financing.” But the RFP specifies that the housing fit into the neighborhood, so if more than one developer is found financially able, this might be a secondary consideration. “It would be very helpful to have any preferences or thoughts about what best serves your neighborhood,” she added.
Rizzi noted his generally favorable impression of all three proposals and his preference for the NOAH housing, “just for the look of it.” Another option which looks like a barn was also attractive, although “the barn looks a little small” in the sketch provided. It was observed that the NOAH housing would be sited for passive solar, and construction materials, though unspecified, would be LEED-certifiable for earth-friendliness. Susan Stamps said that a Green Communities Act is in process and may provide some funding for appropriate developments. All three developers in the running have expressed a willingness to pursue grants as part of their funding.
Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky noted that once a developer is selected, public input will be solicited before a design is approved. “Unfortunately we don’t have time to allow the developers to give public presentations” and still meet the deadline of a decision by early December. “Whoever we pick will be doing multiple presentations” as they go through the approval process, which will involve the Selectmen, Zoning Board of Appeals and other boards.
The three proposals are available to the public and can be reviewed at Town Hall by contacting Elizabeth Barnett. ∆
© 2008 The