Rosebay – Hobson’s choice


Rosebay at Medfield

First, the Medfield Press’ Mike Gleason did a good article on Rosebay this week, available here

Second, I answered a query from a neighbor this morning that I thought others might find useful, so I am inserting it below.

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Rosebay, which is technically not an expansion of Tilden Village, proposes to provide 45 units of income restricted housing for seniors on Pound Street land owned by the Medfield Housing Authority next to Tilden Village, which project has been initiated and pushed forward by the Medfield Housing Authority.

The Board of Selectmen have for years asked the Medfield Housing Authority to move forward with such a project. The current Director, Candace Loewen, and her board have been the ones to actually get it done, and for that the town needs to thank them. However, I think the town was surprised by the size and scale of the end product.

The only way to create such a project at this time is by using low income tax credit financing, where the tax credits for such projects issued by the state get sold to pay for the building of the project. The rental income would not be great enough for such a project to get regular financing. The Parc was also built using this method.

There seems to be universal agreement that more such senior housing is needed in Medfield, with the point of disagreement being whether the size and mass of this current proposal is disqualifying.

The decision of what to do with that project rests entirely with the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield, in response to the application for a comprehensive permits that was recently filed. There will likely be several nights of hearings, the first of which is scheduled for August 15, 2019. The ZBA will retain, at the developer’s expense, its own experts to peer review the application and to make recommendations to the ZBA. In the usual circumstance, the ZBA has a Hobson’s choice, since if they deny the application the developer will merely appeal to the state Housing Appeals Committee (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/housing-appeals-committee-hac), which tends to always allow almost all developer appeals. Therefore the usual ZBA task is to thread the needle of approving the application, but with conditions that make it more palatable for the town while not making it “uneconomic” (statutory term) for the developer.

In this instance, the ZBA has the additional decision to make, namely as to whether to invoke the town’s current “safe harbor” status under G. L. c. 40B, which allows the ZBA to deny the application outright.

So the ZBA decision will need to be a political balancing act by the ZBA members between a desirable, needed project that can apparently only be economically done with all 45 units, versus a project that many seem to feel is generally out of scale with the existing neighborhood. It would be a much easier decision if the project was only two stories tall – I spoke to the developer about reducing it to two stories, and was told it cannot be done.

Further complicating the decision is the fact that the project is used by the Affordable Housing Trust’s projections as what is both necessary to keep the town within the 40B safe harbor while we get to the ultimate 10% affordable housing and to achieve the 10% affordable housing number that then provides ongoing safe harbor to the town. Therefore, denying this project would put the town back at risk in several years of unfriendly 40B projects, such as the Mega-B, and as long as the town if below the 10% Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) level by even one unit, we are at risk from an unfriendly 40B of up to 200 units..

The Rosebay developer has already reduced the size and scale of the project some, as the result of a series of meetings with an ad hoc group of residents, mainly from the Planning Board and the Affordable Housing Trust. The recent positive memo from that group to the Board of Selectmen can be found on my blog.

The Medfield Housing Authority Director and board members were active and strong proponents for the project when it was discussed at the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday evening, making the points about how long their waiting list are for seniors seeking affordable housing and now much the 45 units of housing are therefore needed in town. That is an argument and a constituency that will be hard for the ZBA to ignore. Similarly, the neighbors have valid concerns about the size and scale of the proposal, as it would not be allowed there but for being a 40B project.

This presents a true Hobson’s choice for the ZBA – does is disappoint the neighbors, or does it disappoint the seniors, the Medfield Housing Authority and put the town at risk for unfriendly 40B’s. Perhaps the ZBA can craft an acceptable compromise.

7 responses to “Rosebay – Hobson’s choice

  1. Deirdre Murphy

    As a neighbor living directly across the street from the proposed project, I would like to point out that the neighbors have had no opportunity, prior to the Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, to comment on the project. The developer has not reached out to the neighbors. (If he has, I was not invited. ) Similarly, although the Medfield Housing Authority Director provided assurances that they are willing to work hard to address the neighbors’ concerns about the size and mass of the project, she has not reached out to the neighbors to listen to their concerns, let alone address them. From a neighbor’s perspective, this is an “unfriendly” 40B project. The developer’s and the Housing Authority’s approach toward the neighbors to date is unfortunate.
    As I expressed at the Selectmen’s meeting, I am not opposed to a senior affordable housing apartment development at 30 Pound Street. But I have serious concerns about the size and mass of the project, as do members of the Board of Selectmen. The project as currently conceived is incompatible with the neighborhood. It is regrettable that a project with this many units has been encouraged by the Town without having anticipated the size of a building that might be required to meet that goal and the potential impact on the neighborhood.
    My understanding is that the Town is projected to be in the safe harbor through 2021 or 2022 based on projects already approved by the Town (or in process) and in the queue. It is not inevitable that the Town will face a 200 unit 40B project if the Rosebay project were to be denied based on the Safe Harbor. How is an appeal relevant if the Town were to invoke the Safe Harbor?
    It’s time for the developer to be transparent. He should clearly explain to the neighbors and the Town why a 2-story project with less than 45 units is uneconomic. I made this request at the Selectmen’s meeting. He must also address the numerous concerns raised during the Selectmen’s meeting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Select Board member Osler "Pete" Peterson

      Deidre,

      With respect to your comment, I do not think an appeal is relevant if the the ZBA invokes safe harbor, as it is my understanding that the HAC would uphold our safe harbor.

      Pete

      Like

    • Hi Pete-

      I would just like to support Deidre’s message. As an abutting property, I have been extremely disappointed with the lack of direct communication from anyone. Without a neighborhood email chain, I would not have even known about the project until just this week when I received a letter in mail about the August 15th meeting (no mention of this Tuesday’s meeting). I understand the needs of the town to provide adequate housing and am in full support of making sure long time residence can afford to stay in town. I completely empathetic toward the initiative and not against using the pound street property. I would just like it to be done in a way that does not harm those of us in the neighborhood. I am very concerned though that a three story building will not only not fit the neighborhood but selfishly do significant damage to the potential property value of my home. As Diedre mentioned, I don’t understand how the developer or the town can say they are trying to do what is best for all when they haven’t even reached out to discuss concerns in order to work toward a compromise. A compromise that many of us are willing to come to.

      Like

      • Select Board member Osler "Pete" Peterson

        Mike,

        I hope that you can have some of that conversation that you are mentioning, before the ZBA, although I hear what you say that you wish it had already happened.

        Pete

        Like

  2. Eileen DeSorgher

    Hi Pete,

    FYI. Candace’s last name is Doherty. She went back to her maiden surname name – last year or maybe it was 2017.

    Best, -Eileen

    Sent from my iPhone.

    Please excuse any spelling & grammar typo’s.

    >

    Like

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