The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 3, 2009

ZBA’s new 40B regulations worry Housing Authority

At its meeting on June 25, the Carlisle Housing Authority shared continued concerns over the tightened 40B regulations recently issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Under state law Chapter 40B, builders may bypass most local zoning if a minimum of 25% of the new housing units qualify as affordable for residents of low and moderate income. Instead of filing a subdivision application with the Planning Board, a 40B developer must request a comprehensive permit from the ZBA and follow their regulations.

While any or all of the new requirements may be waived at the discretion of the ZBA, a developer would incur some expenses before learning what would or would not be required for a specific project. Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky said that the cost and uncertainty would have a negative effect on developers interested in small 40Bs, such as the town’s 26-unit Benfield project, while having little effect on developers pursuing larger projects.

Tom Lane, Planning Board liaison, suggested developers could save money by meeting informally with town officials to discuss possible waivers prior to submitting the ZBA application. He explained that this preliminary step is offered by the Planning Board, which invites developers to discuss conceptual plans before detailed engineering work begins.

In the case of the Benfield project, Lehotsky said the developer, NOAH, had met with officials in the newly formed Town Hall Advisory Group (THAG), but it was unclear what authority the THAG had to advise on ZBA waiver requirements. Housing Authority members worried that without a way to clarify or expedite the new 40B application process, the Benfield project might be delayed and miss the next window of opportunity to apply for an estimated $7 million needed in state project funding. The “one-stop” state grants for affordable housing construction are awarded annually by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Housing Authority agreed to try to work with NOAH to learn how the new 40B regulations will affect the Benfield costs and what waivers might be requested for the project. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito