Lot 3 & Hinkley Property
The Board of Selectmen received the following memo from the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee at last night’s (really long – 4+ hours) meeting. I am an abutter to an abutter of both Hinkley and Lot 3 (in blue above), so I recuse myself from any discussions about either.
After hearing from Chair Nolan and his fellow committee members, the Selectmen agreed last night to allow the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee process, as planned, to proceed to its expected January special town meeting (STM) to consider the rezoning and disposition of the Medfield State Hospital land, instead of doing either an immediate disposition and/or a commercial use disposition.
TO: Medfield Board of Selectmen
FROM: Stephen M. Nolan, Chair
Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee
RE: Hinkley Property and Lot 3, Ice House Road
DATE: July 6, 2017
At your meeting on June 20, 2017, Mike Marcucci raised the possibility that Lot 3 on Ice House Road (“Lot 3”) and the adjacent Hinkley property (the “Hinkley Property”) be removed from the purview of the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee (the “Committee”) and instead assigned to the newly-created Affordable Housing Trust (the “Trust”). I raised this subject for discussion at our Committee meeting the following evening. After further discussion at our meeting on July 5, the Committee voted unanimously to recommend to Board of Selectmen that Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property remain as part of our charge, with the understanding that two members of our Committee would be designated to work with one or more members of the Trust and/or the Affordable Housing Committee on an RFP for disposition of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property to one or more developers for the following uses: 42 units of senior affordable rental housing (40B compliant) on Lot 3 and approximately 15 small single-family units on the Hinkley Property. Our thought process is set forth in more detail below.
- Intended Use of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property.
The consensus that has emerged from our public sessions, our meetings with the Council on Aging and the Senior Housing Study Committee and Committee deliberations is that the most desirable use for Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property is senior housing. The principal reasons for this are twofold: access to The Center and the possibility that a senior housing development could happen on a more expedited basis than the re-development of the MSH core campus because infrastructure is more readily available and the properties are distinct enough from the core campus to be susceptible of proceeding on an independent track without pre-determining other uses at the core campus that are still under discussion. The Council on Aging has expressed potential willingness to cede a small portion of the land at the corner of The Center adjacent to Hinkley for purposes of enhancing the development potential of the Hinkley Property. In addition, our consultant has advised that more intense commercial uses at Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property are likely to negatively impact The Center and overload Ice House Road.
Concern has been expressed by some, including Mike Sullivan and Gus Murby, about using a commercially zoned property for residential purposes, but the overall MSH master plan is likely to include not only a site on the MSH property for a recreational facility (whether Town-owned, private or public-private-partnership is a subject to be addressed by the Town) but also other commercially-designated parcels at the core campus that are more likely to draw interest from commercial users due to their favorable location in midst of a vital redevelopment project. Given the proximity of the MSH property to McCarthy Park and the fact that there are no restrictive covenants applicable to that land (unlike the covenants that the Town is subject to under the Kingsbury Club lease), the MSH property is a more favorable site for a recreational facility. And we have heard from the Economic Development Committee that the only serious proposal for a commercial use at Lot 3 that came out of their request for expressions of interest was a recreational facility, the other potential use being senior housing. If other land at the MSH property is being proposed for such a use as well as other commercial uses, the Committee does not see any disadvantage to changing the zoning of Lot 3 to residential, effectively swapping this commercial land for other more-suitable commercial land at the MSH property.
- Advantages to Keeping Properties within MSH Master Plan.
The biggest reason for keeping Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property as part of the charge of the Committee is that by doing so they can be rezoned as part of the overall re-zoning of the MSH property. Such re-zoning will significantly enhance the value of the properties because a developer will not be required to obtain a Chapter 40B comprehensive permit, which is both time-consuming and expensive, even if it is a “friendly 40B”. In addition, the Committee believes that moderately-priced single-family homes are in demand by Medfield seniors and such units would not qualify for a comprehensive permit. So without including the Hinkley Property under the MSH re-zoning, those units would not be feasible at the Hinkley Property. The Committee is also looking at possible creation of a Chapter 40R district that would encompass Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, possibly resulting in financial incentive payments to the Town.
An additional consideration is that the MSH master plan is more likely to succeed at Town Meeting if it draws upon the broadest coalition of supporters, including seniors and advocates for maintaining safe harbor status under Chapter 40B. The Committee believes that if key parts of the redevelopment plan are removed from our scope and made stand-alone proposals, the MSH master plan is less likely to pass due to the loss of constituencies who might otherwise be expected to vigorously support the master plan. This dissipation of support through segmentation of the plan poses a real risk to our ability to muster two-thirds support at Town Meeting.
Finally, in examining the financial impact of the MSH redevelopment, the location of senior housing at Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, rather than at the core campus, will produce a net shift of positive economic benefits from the core campus to Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property due to (i) senior housing being a net revenue generator because of the lack of school children and (ii) a relatively higher purchase price for those properties because of lower infrastructure costs. On the other hand, the possibility of family housing around the core campus and the higher infrastructure costs are likely to make the financials at the core campus more challenging. For these reasons we prefer to keep Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property within our scope.
- Potential Disposition Process and Timing.
Finally, the issue of speed needs to be examined in light of other affordable housing efforts in Town. We look to the Selectmen, the Affordable Housing Committee and the Affordable Housing Trust for guidance in this area. We are aware of multiple efforts on the affordable housing front, including Tilden Village (42+ units), the American Legion property (42+ units), Lot 3 (42 units) and the core campus (undetermined number of units, but likely at least 50 units). The combination of these units would bring the Town over the 10% mark. Managing the delivery of these units so as to keep within safe harbor will be a complicated task, but given the difficulty of getting projects permitted and funded, it seems to us better to be pro-active and have multiple irons in the fire rather than trying to stretch out efforts in order to avoid overlap. If one of the proposed projects were to slip for unanticipated reasons and another wasn’t well along in the process, the Town could fall out of safe harbor, and be vulnerable to unfriendly 40Bs. In addition, the seniors in Town are impatient for progress on the goal of providing alternative housing options in order to avoid losing more of their number to out-of-town options.
Because Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property are Town-owned properties, they require a public disposition process in addition to re-zoning. We would propose that the Town proceed on a parallel track to prepare a disposition RFP that would allow for selection of a preferred developer/purchaser, subject to re-zoning and Town Meeting approval. This would allow for a potential disposition shortly after Town Meeting in January. We have already done significant planning work with respect to Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, including wetlands mapping and infrastructure analysis, and as a result our Committee is familiar with the constraints and development potential of the two sites. Because our planning consultant is working with us on possible lay-outs of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property and because, as stated above, we believe it makes sense to keep the properties under the MSH master plan, we suggest our Committee proceed to work on an RFP for the disposition, either as a single project comprising both the affordable senior rentals (40B) and the moderately-priced single family units or as two separate projects. We would consult with the Affordable Housing Trust and Affordable Housing Committee as we draft the RFP and we would welcome their input. A recommendation on disposition as one single or two separate projects would be made by the Committee, once it digs into the substance more thoroughly and examines the merits of both approaches.