Unique Homes’ Ralph Costello, who serves on the Medfield Economic Development Committee and is the developer of Old Medfield Square on Rte. 27 (which will pay $600,000 per year to the town in property taxes versus $50,000 per year in cost of municipal services) recently summarized his thinking about the Medfield State Hospital site in an interesting letter to the town planner, Sarah Raposa –
January 29, 2014
Sarah L. Raposa
Town of Medfield
459 Main Street
Medfield, MA 02052
The well-organized January 11th MSH Visioning Meeting was very helpful and informative. It gave those in attendance a free flow of ideas and a clear picture of what the MSH development could mean for the town — the preservation of natural resources and filling community needs, both current and future.
I believe the afternoon presentations made it clear to most in attendance that common sense and vision should prevail over caution and limited horizon. Seldom does a mature town like Medfield, with little developable land, have the opportunity to purchase 130 acres at a bargain price with easy payment terms. And then, control its development to serve the conservation, housing, recreational and cultural needs of the community. The Town of Medfield has that opportunity and should purchase the property.
In the event the town moves forward with the purchase, a Master Site Plan needs to be finalized. And, a strategic plan for its implementation needs to be completed. With the MSH vision in mind, solid planning is needed to address important issues that impact the makeup of the Master Site Plan. The subdivision of parcels of land, the configuration of housing and a timetable for site improvements, funding, marketing, and sales are factors that could determine the makeup of the Master Site Plan. After the vision, the challenge begins. It is one thing to create a vision, it is quite another to execute it.
This letter outlines some of the critical issues that need to be considered in the Master Site Plan and the strategic planning.
What Drives all Real Estate Development?
All real estate developers, me included, always need to be thinking about which “end user” will purchase the developed product. And, what does the “end user” need and want? And, what will the “end user” pay? Even though the Town of Medfield does not intend to develop the site it must create a plan for the development which will be subdivided into parcels, sold and developed by others. Identifying “end users” is very important in the planning process. “End users” want different size lots, housing units, building styles, amenities, density, and prices and need to be considered in creating the Master Site Plan.
Importance of Housing!
Of all the proposed uses, housing stands out as the most important because: Housing is . the highest best use of the land. And, housing will fill the growing need and expanding market of several demographic groups. And, Housing can help preserve the quadrangle buildings by reusing them as apartments and condos. And, Housing parcels can be sold to developers which will bring in revenue sooner, entitling the town to a greater share of the revenue split with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And, housing will produce more post development property tax revenue for the town than other proposed uses.
And, housing designed and built for different demographic groups will have separate generations living side by side with trails and walkways connecting the separate parcels, open spaces, and recreation areas. This will create a wonderful sense of place and further add to the Medfield community spirit. All are important considerations in developing a master site plan. So, special attention must be focused on the housing component.
In general, the housing concept is to plan for the development of market rate housing to fit the needs of the four demographic groups listed below:
• Housing for Seniors
o Independent living
o Assisted living
• Housing for Baby Boomers
o Attached/detached Condominiums
o Multi attached Condominiums
• Housing for Generation X
o Single parent households, Condominiums
• Housing for Generation Y , Millennial
o Rental Apartments
In Addition, a 408 Affordable Housing component should be available in apartments to obtain the maximum credits toward the minimum 10% affordable requirement. Also, a portion of land should be set aside for a future location to move historical homes slated for demolition or to build a Habitat for Humanity project.
A first step in finalizing the master site plan is to subdivide the MSH site into parcels suitable for each demographic group. The location, boundaries and size of each parcel would be determined by the design needs for the demographic group. The parcels would then be sold to private real estate developers to build housing for the target market. This plan has one distinct advantage: two or more real estate developers/builders can be developing parcels simultaneously without competing with one another. The homes built by each developer would be marketed to an entirely different group of buyers. Marketing to different developers at the same time will result in the project being built and completed sooner.
To accomplish these goals strategic planning must consider the design for the whole site, each parcel, and the housing units within each parcel. Listed below are some of the considerations and decisions to be made in the process of creating a final site plan.
To Be Determined:
• The optimum number of housing units to be built on the site
• The number of housing units designated for each demographic group
• The location on the site for each demographic group.
• The optimum size of a parcel to accommodate the designated number of units
• The size and number of parcels to be subdivided.
. The balance of open space with the configuration of buildings and improvements on each parcel
• The scale and design of the housing units to fit into the needs of the target market and at the same time fit architecturally into the site already defined by the chapel, the quad building facades and the country environment.
• The access roads to each parcel
• The availability and access to utilities for each parcel
• The market value of each parcel created
• The means by which the market value of each parcel could be enhanced
• The marketing plan for the sale of the parcels
• The rollout timetable that best meets the financial goals of the project
Under the existing Medfield Zoning Bylaw the MSH site cannot be developed as envisioned. Changes to the Zoning Bylaw must be a part of the strategic planning.
I recommend the following changes:
• Rezone the entire MSH site to include:
o Flexibility on use, density, and dimensional regulations
o Changes in the procedures and process for review and approval of plans
o A design review committee
A rezoning of the entire site is the best method of making the necessary changes. Since zoning bylaw changes require a vote by town meeting, proposed changes should be a priority.
In the execution of the MSH master plan many changes will be required; hence the new zoning should give the town broad guidelines and lots of flexibility to accommodate those changes. Changing the procedures and process for application and plan review is very important to the success of the project at MSH. The process of plan review has to be more of a collaborative effort between developers and the Town of Medfield, with both sides working towards a common goal.
The first step in the approval process should be a design review. A design review committee should be established to review the site plan and unit plans submitted by the developer. Prior to the submittal of any plans the. review committee should go over design concepts with the developer to establish design guidelines and direction. The town and the developer should work together to find the best plan for the parcel. Control over design is very important for the town as the overall appeal and value of the remaining parcels and the entire site is affected by what is built.
In conclusion, the MSH vision is all about community —- a place where different generations can live side by side and share in the experience of a vibrant community.
The Town of Medfield has the opportunity to transform this vision into reality and help create such a community. When completed, it would not be an imitation of another development, but unique to Medfield, and a model for others to follow.
Sarah, I hope these ideas are helpful in your strategic planning for the site.
Unique Homes and aide Village Square Corp
503 Main Street, Medfield, MA.