40B at 93-95 North Street
The Board of Selectmen was recently presented with a proposal for a fourteen unit rental 40B project at 93-95 North Street that the developer, David MacCready, was asking the town to approve as a friendly Local Initiative Program (LIP). There is currently a two-family house and a small barn on the site, which is about 0.8 acres in size. The proposal called for construction of a new ten or twelve unit apartment building at the back of the yard, and moving the barn behind the two-family structure, to perhaps house two units. There seemed to be some continuing flux as to the actual planned configuration and whether the barn would house apartments or not.
I had been told by Mike Sullivan for months that he had been meeting with the developer about some proposals, but I had no report on, nor knew any of the details, until I first heard the proposal presented to the Board of Selectmen. That meeting was well attended by the neighbors, who were uniformly opposed to the proposal per my poll at the meeting. The neighbors were also critical of the developer for storing construction debris at the site and for failing to follow directions from the Building Commissioner. I am not yet aware of the truth of those allegations. The neighborhood is now also replete with signs protesting the project.
I have been thinking about the proper density for the downtown ever since serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, but more so when this same developer built a row of about ten townhouses on Brook Street, that to my eye looked too dense and too tall. However, that project was built as of right, based on the then zoning in the RU zone, the zoning district that encompasses the downtown. From memory, at that time, the first unit required 12,000 sq. ft., but additional units could be added for each extra 6,000 sq. ft. of area. Glover Place and Old Village Square were also built, as of right, based on that same density we then had in our RU zoning. I think that former zoning allowed about 6-7 units per acre.
At our annual town meeting (ATM) last year we increased the RU district density requirements so that now for any multi-family building, the first three units require 30,000 sq. ft. of land and each additional unit requires another 8,000 sq. ft. The zoning now would therefore only allow for about four units on the 93-95 North Street site, as of right, versus what might formerly have been 6-7 units. We as a community have made a choice via our zoning requirements, that such levels of density in the downtown are what we want.
I asked Mike Sullivan during a meeting if he had talked to the developer about the proposed density at 93-93 North Street, and Mike said that he had, but that the developer “had not followed his advice.” As I have considered whether, as a selectmen, I would vote to support this proposal, I find that at this time I am not so inclined at its current density. I would, however, reconsider if the density were closer to the as of right density.
Where this proposal is a 40B, it is exempt from our zoning. However, where the town is currently in a 40B safe harbor (due to both having a Housing Production Plan approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development and having actually permitted 21 Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) units this year), the only way that this current proposal can proceed is as a friendly 40B (i.e., as a LIP with selectmen support), unless the town falls out of its safe harbor next spring. And the Board of Selectmen and the Affordable Housing Trust Committee are working to make sure that does not happen.
The current expectation is that 93-95 North Street proposal will next be vetted by the Affordable Housing Trust Committee, and may then return to the Board of Selectmen for its consideration.