There has been tremendous reaction and interest to the 200 unit 40B that has been proposed, and I have been asked how it can be stopped and/or what the town can do.
The 200 unit proposal will have to go through a rigorous permitting process with the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield, at which time public input is accepted, peer review will likely be required, and reasonable health and safety conditions can be imposed.
In addition to Zoning Board of Appeals approval, the 200 unit proposal has to get ComCon approval, however, the owner was already in before the ConCom within the past month to seek a wetlands delineation, so the project as laid out may well probably comply with the wetland regulations. When the owner was recently before the ConCom they were not required and did not tell the ConCom the reason for seeking the wetland delineation.
The Zoning Board of Appeals cannot safely turn the 200 unit proposal down, as the applicant then just appeals to the state Housing Appeals Committee and, traditionally, the HAC will just approve the project, perhaps without any of the conditions that the ZBA might impose. Therefore, the ZBA strategy needs to be to approve the proposal with reasonable conditions related to health and safety sorts of issues, that modify and mitigate its impact, without making it in the terms of the 40B statute “uneconomic.”
Massachusetts General Laws c. 40B creates a conundrum for towns that do not have 10% affordable housing and/or a safe harbor via some other mechanism, namely having either an approved Housing Production Plan and/or devote 1.5% of available land in town to affordable housing. Even if the town had an approved Housing Production Plan, then the town would still need to build 22 units of affordable housing a year to keep the protection.
Medfield is currently short about 139 units of affordable housing to get to the 10% level, and only about a little more than half way to the 1.5% safe harbor. Ironically, with the Hospital Road 40B 48 unit condo ownership proposal and the new 200 unit rental proposal, the town would add 212 affordable units, so the town would be way over the 10% level. For ownership 40B’s the town gets credit only for the actual 25% of the units that are affordable, whereas in a rental projects such as the 200 unit proposal, one gets credit for all the units, even though only 25% are affordable and 75% are market rate units.
A draft Housing Production Plan was prepared a couple of years ago, and after it left the selectmen with general positive comments it went to the planning board. I was told the planning board did not like it, although I was never learned why. The draft Housing Production Plan was then set aside, and only just recently addressed anew. The planning board started meeting to push forward on both the Housing Production Plan and the necessary plans on how to meet the 10% affordable housing levels – I just attended on 8/8/16 a kickoff and really productive planning board meeting on those topics, at which both the Housing Production Plan and possible affordable housing sites and strategies were discussed in depth.
Interestingly, the main property on the East side of Rte. 27 that is part of the 200 unit proposal had been the subject of town purchase discussions between the town and the then owner, Mary Solari, after her husband had died, as that site was suggested as a better location for the new public safety building, one that would have saved the town over $500,000 in construction costs because the project would not have to have been phased. I am informed that at that time, the town was told that Mrs. Solari was not interested in selling, and I am also told that she has since died.