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Affordable Housing Project Continues to Raise Questions

The Zoning Board of Appeals heard from its planning consultant who summarized the issues of the project and expressed her remaining concerns.

 

The Board of Appeals on Zoning continued its public hearing last week on the affordable housing project proposed off West Street. 

Concerned neighbors and residents filled the meeting room to learn more about the 96-unit garden-style complex of four buildings on five acres to be called "The Parc at Medfield" where all units are proposed to be "affordable," or below market rate.

Residents were hoping to hear from the town's financial consultant who would discuss the impact of the project on the town and the impact of the waivers the applicant, Gatehouse Group LLC, but the town did not yet have all the information the consultant needed to make his recommendations.

That consultant is now expected to make a presentation on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. but it will focus on the economical feasibility of the project, not how it will affect the town's bottom line.

"What it will not do is analyze the economic impact on the town, the school system, or anything else that has to do with the town," said Town Counsel Mark Cerel, noting it would address only "what's legal and relevant; it's strictly whether or not the project is economical" for the town. 

"What I care about is, 'What is the economic impact of these waivers?' assuming we were to deny one," said ZBA Chairman Robert Sylvia. "What is the impact of one of these waivers on the project?" and would any waiver the denies be prohibitive to the applicant.

Residents wanted to know what tax revenue the project would generate, what the fees would be, what expenses would the town bear including the impact on the schools and the cost to educate (and bus) the children in the development. 

But that information cannot be part of the decision process, say town officials.

"Anybody who tells you that this development is going to have a positive impact on this town's finances is not telling you the truth, the fact is it's not; no residential development of this nature ever does," said Sylvia.

The board did, however, hear from the town's planning consultant, Judi Barrett, as well as representatives from Gatehouse Group LLC. 

Barrett presented an 18-page document she created after meeting with several town department heads and town consultants; it summarized what she sees as the issues the town has with the proposed Parc at Medfield.  

"There were a couple of issues that stood out for me," Barrett said.

One of those is the orientation of the buildings to the street and nearby abutters.

Barrett suggested placing the buildings closer to the street so the parking lot (and its headlights, remote car starters/alarms, etc) is somewhat sheltered from abutters.

"I categorically disagree with both Judi and Cliff [the town's architectural consultant who made a similar recommendation]," said Gatehouse Project Manager Jim Koningisor. "We would resist this stongly. This is not an urban site. We think that being back here creates a better living environment for people living in this building. I think this is the right design."   

Barrett's other concerns include: 

  • Project will not comply with zoning. The land is zoned as industrial therefore a multi-family use does not comply.
  • A town bylaw says no building should be taller than two stories or 35 feet tall. The proposed project has three-story buildings that are 46 feet tall.
  • Fire Department has concerns regarding fire suppression and accessing the third floor.
  • Parking spaces required. Town bylaw calls for two spaces per unit. Applicant feels its proposed 158 spaces is adequate because their research shows they only need . Barrett recommends they reserve land for 12 more spots if it is determined they are needed after 12 months.
  • Conservation Issues: Project is within the 50-foot no disturbance zone  
  • Building Height: Town bylaw says buildings should be no more than two stories tall or 35 feet high.  Proposed project is three stories tall and 46 feet high.
  • Stormwater management. The importance of town regulations and the legalities of the town's "Stormwater Guidance Series."

For a full list of concerns and recommendations, see the attached pdf. 

Before Barrett presented her report, Gatehouse Project Manager Jim Koningisor submitted a 22-page letter that proposed a series of changes to which Gatehouse would agree if the ZBA approves the comprehensive permit "with conditions that are acceptable to the Applicant without the necessity to appeal." 

Gatehouse's proposed changes include:

  • Remove four three-bedroom units from Building #2 (proposed in front village along West Street) which would reduce the total three-bedroom units to 20 (or 17 percent of the units available); this would also reduce the three-floor building to two floors. 
  • Reimburse the town up to $20,000 for the construction of a sidewalk from the entrance driveway on West Street to a point across from Marsh Drive as well as the construction of an ADA crosswalk.
  • Reimburse the town up to $10,000 to install stop signs and lines on Marsh Drive and Bridge Street as they approach West Street, plus re-striping the street up to the Charles River crossing.
  • Shift each building four feet closer to the parking lot so fire department can access roofs.
  • Reimburse town for purchase of a "reasonable number of additional 32 foot or 35 foot extension ladders" for the fire department.
  • Construct a large bus stop area to include a safety barrier
  • Install composite tubs and water-saving plumbing fixtures, per suggestion of town's architect.
  • Trim and maintain vegetation at West Street entrances to ensure sight distances.
  • Will raise the elevation of the rear village by one foot.
  • Install acoustic screening to the pump station.
  • Light poles will not exceed 20 feet
  • Will work with West Street property owners who are affected by headlights to provide reasonable additional plantings or screening if they desire.
  • Truck traffic will be restricted to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. 

For a full list of proposed changes, to be agreed to only if  the permit is granted, see the attached pdf. 

Gatehouse also revised its original list of more than 55 waivers down to 11.

For a full list of waivers, see the attached pdf.

Barrett said the original list included many requests that were not necessary and "silly."  

"I think they tend to throw in the kitchen sink," she said of the lengthy list.

"There are some waivers that you have requested that strike me as being impossible for this board to grant," Chairman Sylvia said, referring to those associated with sewer connections and earth removal, among others.

The hearing was continued to Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m., in the Chenery Room at the Town House, when the board plans to hear from the financial consultant.

Gatehouse has agreed to an additional one-week extension to Nov. 5 to close the hearing, if need be.  

G Man October 23, 2012 at 02:20 PM
If approved, should Town Planning consider making parts of Bridge and Marsh streets one way or restricted hours to avoid these streets being used as a cut thru?
Resident October 23, 2012 at 06:08 PM
If approved, will the site have a wash down station for the trucks/cars leaving the site?

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