MWDN: New 140-unit 40B project proposed on Rte. 9 in Southborough

I’ve recently heard rumblings about a new 40B housing project that’s being proposed on the south side of Route 9 near Crystal Pond Road. The Metrowest Daily News today published more details.

Developer Robert Moss, owner of Moss Development Inc., wants to build eleven 3-story apartment buildings to house 140 units on the 17-acre site. The project would be called Madison Place. Moss is the same developer who is looking to convert nearly 18 wooded acres on the other side of Route 9 into a residential housing development.

The Madison Place parcel is the same spot eyed by Avalon Bay for a 200-unit 40B project back in 2007. That project was ultimately abandoned because of the economy.

You can read more about this latest 40B project in the Metrowest Daily News. Selectmen are expected to discuss the project at their meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 in the Town House Hearing Room.

Update 5/23: The Board of Selectmen will not discuss the project on Tuesday 5/24 as originally scheduled. The agenda item was postponed at the request of the developer. No word yet on when it will be rescheduled.

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Paul DeBruyn
11 years ago

Hi,

If that area is going to be developed (and the wetland kept intact) doesn’t it make sense to build business related properties so close to Route 9 that will generate tax revenue for the town? We do not generate tax revenue from most of the center of the town and route 9 appears to be our best area to do so. Business offices and light manufacturing will benefit the town financially and add more jobs. There must be plenty of other areas in town where we can build affordable housing without taking away our opportunity to add significantly to the tax base. The immediate Route 9 area is a business resource I hope we do not squander.

Regards,

Paul

Mike
11 years ago

The problem is the people that come with 40B housing. Can you imagine the burden on the school, fire and police. They can not force us to have 10% of our population as 40B as the news puts forth. The state does not give us back anything in return money on our taxes as it is. And we receive no federal dollars in returned taxes because out income levels in Southboro are too hgh. So we just say no to any 40B housing. If this Moss fella wnats to build normal houses or corporate buildings that is ok. We and everyone bought in Southboro because we work hard and want a nice town. Not the influx of people form 40B housing.

DS
11 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Couldn’t agree more, Mike!

One of the biggest concerns I have is that plenty of folks from surrounding towns who want to take advantage of our fine schools will move their large extended families to a unit here. It could potentially create a huge burden on the schools, both regular and special ed services would be greatly impacted.

John Boiardi
11 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Mike,

Route 9 is a hassel during commute time. Can you imagine occupents of 140 apartments entering and leaving Chrystal Pond road all day long? We need business develpoment not apartments. Regarding 40B. It has a current goal of 10%. As soon as we reach 10% the state will raise the goal to 20% (they already tried). I hear all the time regarding budgets, that we don’t want to change the nature of Southborough as a rural community. Why would we want hugh apartment complexes? The little tax that the town would gain would be eaten up by the $12,000 cost to educate the children brought in by apartment complexes. Add the cost of Police and Fire. What are we trying to do? Become like Marlboro and Framingham.

living the dream
11 years ago
Reply to  John Boiardi

That is $12000.00 per child. I agree we don’t want the people that a 40B development brings in. The traffic in that area would be horrendous and as previously mentioned, it is already a big problem. This would put a huge burden on the school system. I vote NO!

Jimmy
11 years ago

Here’s an excerpt from the link I provided earlier:

“The cost of housing in Massachusetts is high, and most citizens believe that programs to encourage affordable housing are necessary. But on this score chapter 40b has been a failure. 63% of the affordable housing units in Massachusetts were built using programs other than 40b. The median cost of housing built in 40b developments is $400,000. After 30 years, Massachusetts still doesn’t have enough affordable housing.”

Tell me the public servant who can afford a $400,000 home? MAYBE a fireman who works hard on a second full time job as an electrician or other tradesman, but there’s no way a teacher or police officer making $60,000 per year can afford a $400,000 condo in Southborough. I recall the old mortgage calculation that one can not afford more than 2.5x their annual income on a mortgage.

Let’s call this what it is. Its a chance for a developer to make a LOT of money hiding behind 40B. Its up to the planning board to ensure this is done properly now.

Let’s not blame the planning board or the selectmen or anyone other than the VOTERS of Southborough who didn’t go to the polls in 2010 and could have voted against 40B.

There are better alternatives to encourage affordable housing than chapter 40b, such as “inclusionary zoning”, or proposed laws like chapter 40R. These proposals would increase affordable housing while preserving our zoning laws.

Karen
11 years ago

The entire 140 units would not be affordable housing. Twenty-five percent would have to be affordable according to the state–that would be 35 units. I assume the rest would be regular rate apartments, although I do not know that for certain.

Concerns about school enrollment, traffic and the environment are legitimate. However, categorizing everyone living in apartments as being in 40B housing is inaccurate.

Southside Gadsden Flyer
11 years ago

I don’t want 140 units of anything, no matter who is paying the rent, state or otherwise, built in our town. I am hoping the postponement of discussion in front of BOS is a good sign that the developer has come to his/her senses!

Jimmy
11 years ago

It is interesting to read this thread and read the opposition to affordable housing in Southborough. Its rather ironic that in the October 2010 state election there was a ballot question that would have repealed the law allowing these 40B housing developments. The repeal initiative lost by a margin of 58% to 42% (statewide) and by a similar margin in Southborough!

There is an interesting analysis of the pros/cons of the ballot initiative at this link:
http://massachusetts-election-2010.com/2887/ballot-questions-for-2010-mass-elections-announced/

Paul
11 years ago

Southborough or a developer should invest in a sewer system (I am told that Framingham and Westborough have a sewer system covering Route 9) and bring in revenue generating business, and not any kind of apartments. Where else will we be able to generate tax revenue in town? Route 9 may be our best bet.

Publius
11 years ago

Why is everyone against affordable housing ? Affordable housing is housing that can serve school teachers, firefighters, police officers. Isn’t it desirable to have town employees live in the town ? If you are against affordable housing does that mean you favor unaffordable housing. Seems unaffordable housing is why the economy got in this recent mess.

Karen
11 years ago
Reply to  Publius

I agree. It seems like there are some people who are opposed to apartment complexes in town. Often the words “apartment” and “40B housing” are used synonymously. That simply is not true.

It would be great if there were more affordable homes in town. It seems like most people are against large complexes being built. The developers profit off these complexes because the majority of the apartments are not rented as affordable units.

I wish there could be more of a middle ground, where developers would work with the town to create affordable housing that would blend with the town.

John boiardi
11 years ago
Reply to  Publius

Publius,

You have it backwards. It’s the private sector that needs affordable housing.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Publius

Publicus

First, “affordable housing” or any other type of housing, with the possible exception of senior housing, will cause all of our taxes to increase. It is no secret that houses are money losers for the town from a tax perspective, taking more in services (principally schools) than they provide in taxes. So more houses means higher taxes. “Affordable Housing” or any other type of housing unit that carries a lower than average assessment impacts taxes more than higher assessed units.

Secondly affordable or unaffordable housing is a meaningless label. Almost by definition every house is affordable by someone. Let’s have the courage to say what this program really is. It is a program that is attempting to reverse the pattern of economic self segregation.

Finally you have to ask why builders do not build more modest homes if there is a market for them. After all markets abhor a vacuum. I believe that the answer, at least in part, is that it is very difficult to make money building these types of homes. An ocean of well meaning regulations from zoning (eg 1 A lots), to building codes, wetlands restrictions, septic requirements, and trade protections adds 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of dollars to the cost of a house. This in turn biases the market towards building homes that appeal to people who can afford to pay this “regulation tax”. So, no more capes and splits and more McMansions.

Kelly Roney
11 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

affordable or unaffordable housing is a meaningless label.

Al, really?? Is “high-priced” meaningless? For someone, a million dollars is chicken feed. No, these words have meaning, and everyone knows them, even if the standard senses are relative.

In this case, there’s also a technical meaning with some precision. People who make 80% of median local income are eligible for affordable housing. Didn’t you ever hear that before?

It is a program that is attempting to reverse the pattern of economic self segregation.

It’s not a pattern of self-segregation. It’s a pattern of zoning to keep towns economically homogeneous, often at the expense of long-time residents and their children.

You get to the economic forces in your next paragraph, which takes the opposite tack of the earlier paragraphs. You in fact are making arguments in favor of Ch. 40B. Ch. 40B is about lowering developer costs and usually increasing density so that 20-25% of units can be affordable. In practice, towns such as ours often negotiate with developers to get other concessions. Even so, the developers wind up with more power to build houses for a real market that otherwise would not have much stock in affluent towns.

Sometimes that’s good, sometimes bad. But 40B has been on the books for 40 years, and it’s not the economic force that has changed the face of Southborough.

living the dream
11 years ago
Reply to  Publius

You miss the point in saying it will help school teachers, and other town employees. Most of them make too much money to qualify for the affordable housing. I am a town employee and tried to apply for the Parkerville Road house and couldn’t because I was $200-300 over the cap for our family size. The teachers in this town make too much to take advantage of this and the other employees if they have a spouse that works, will make too much as well. It doesn’t help your town employees. If you want your employees that count to live in town, the fire and police chief should live in town too. They are the most important after all. Bill Webber had to move here to be the Chief but when Jane Moran applied, she didn’t want to leave her horse farm to move here and they waived that. Also with John Mauro. Maybe the next Fire Chief can live in town. Yes it is preferable that your town employees live here but the most important ones don’t so what is the point. Also, as a town employee, I find it better to NOT live in town. Everybody knows where you live and think you are “on the clock” all the time. People don’t know limits.

Earl E. Byrd
11 years ago

Karen,

With all due respect the underlying premise of both of your comments is inconsistent with the facts presented in the referenced article. The article pretty clearly indicates that the full 140 units will be “affordable” / 40B units so in this case “apartment” and “40B housing” are interchangeable.

“Robert Moss, owner of Moss Development Inc. of Westborough, wants to build a 140-unit affordable housing rental complex near the Gulf gas station on Rte. 9 in Southborough.”

“A Westborough developer wants to build a 140-unit 40B rental apartment complex near the Gulf gas station on Rte. 9.”

and from Selectman Boland:

“Am I in favor of trying to provide more affordable housing in town? Yes,” he said. “But putting 140 units in at one time is quite a lot, and it would kind of change the character of the town.”

It seems odd to me that the town has been unable to sell the affordable unit that was renovated by the Voc school students yet there is still a perceived need for more units.

My suspicion is that the official number of affordable units in town is far less than the actual number of affordable units in town with the number of “unofficial” apartments in the village district that I highly doubt have been included in the official numbers.

Is there a list of the affordable units in town that is available to all? Seems to me that this would be public information and available on the town website. I haven’t been able to find it if it is…

Karen
11 years ago
Reply to  Earl E. Byrd

Earl,

With all due respect, I find it hard to believe a developer would build a 140 unit complex where all the apartments are affordable. The article states that any affordable project is required to have 25% of the units classified as affordable. I do not believe the project would be profitable for the developer if all units are designated as affordable. I do not interpret your quoted comments from the article as indicating that the entire project is affordable.

I am interested in your comment about “unofficial” apartments in the village district being affordable but not included in “official numbers.” Simply put, an apartment is either classified as affordable or it is not. You are right, there should be a list of affordable units in town. I stand by my statement that the words “apartment” and
“40B housing” are not synonymous.

earl
11 years ago

As I understand 40B, the 25% noted is a minimum that the developer must commit to be affordable.

In good times, you are right that there is no reason to build any more than the 25% minimum.

When the real estate market is suffering and there is little difference between market rate and what is allowed under 40B, developers have little or no incentive to limit the number committed as affordable. There may even be a possibility that the development could be market rate and still qualify for the streamlined approval process the developer is entitled to under 40B.

Perhaps I’m misreading it but there is no mention in the MWDN article that only some will be affordable and the full 140 is referenced several times as being “affordable”.

Based on the Town Planner’s indication that if all the proposed units are built (16 on Oak Hill, 15 on Oregon, 140 on Rt 9, totaling 171 units) that we will still be 90 short of the 10% threshold, it appears that he has factored the full 140 proposed as being affordable.

117 existing + 171 new + 90 needed = 378 in total designated as affordable under 40B

378 divided by the sum of the current 3,460 total units in town + 261 (proposed and required), or 3,721 gets us over the 10% threshold noted.

Regardless of whether they are all affordable under 40B or not, the additional costs we will incur for the schools and services required will in no way be offset by the property taxes generated by the 140 new units. That means even higher taxes for the existing tax base.

Until I see a representation that there will be something less than the 140 units noted to be affordable under 40B it’s speculative in my view to assume otherwise.

mysouthborough.com/2010/09/24/stonebrook-village-40b-a-go-woodland-meadows-still-pending/

The above post on the Oregon road project notes 15 units, all of which our town planner has included as affordable.

mysouthborough.com/2011/04/27/town-developer-try-to-reach-agreement-on-woodland-meadows-40b/

Same for the Oak Hill project: 16 units noted in the post with all considered by our town planner to be affordable.

Two developers forgoing the opportunity to maximize their profits by only hitting the 25% threshold for affordable units.

There’s always the possibility that the reporting I am relying on is inaccurate or there is some other intricacy of 40B that I am missing. I’m open to being corrected if I got it wrong. I can only work with the “facts” as they are reported and thus far they pretty clearly point to all 140 being designated as affordable.

Karen
11 years ago
Reply to  earl

Earl,
I really appreciate your research into this matter. You bring up some good points and got me interested to look into the affordable housing issue more closely. I also am open to being corrected if I have been misinformed. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

This blog has been so informative–I’ve learned much from my fellow residents! Thank you!

djd66
11 years ago

I just don’t get this “affordable” thing at all. I just checked the MLS listing site, right now there are 7 houses in town listed under $300K – 2 of which are listed under $200K – this seems affordable to me. How cheap should it be to live in this town? I worked my a** off so my family could live in this town – why should someone be getting a free ride? If you build 140 units that are priced artificially low – it will bring down the real-estate value of everyone’s home in town and it will increase our taxes. I am completely against this BS and would be happy to show up at any meeting that will put a stop to this.

Kathy Cook
11 years ago

To clarify the discussion as to how many of the proposed 140 units would count toward Southborough’s required affordable housing units – the entire 140 would count because Mass. law counts all apartments in an apartment complex. By definition, apartments are generally more affordable than houses. Within the 140 units, the builder would be required to offer 25% of the units at a rental rate determined by a formula that is based in large part on the average income of residents in the area. That rental rate is usually less than the fair market rental rate of the unit otherwise. For new, high quality aparrtments, the rental rate reduction for the 25% more affordable units is typically about 25%.

Publius
11 years ago

Let find out more about this project. Affordable housing is housing that a firefighter, police officer or eacher can afford to live in. That not only makes sense but its good policy.

Al Hamilton
11 years ago
Reply to  Publius

Publicus

I suspect that most firefighters, police officers or teachers would not qualify for affordable housing. It is fine for someone to advocate that “affordable housing” is good public policy but please follow up with the inevitable consequence. If you are in favor of more “affordable” housing you are also in favor of higher property taxes for the rest of us. It is fine to believe that but have the courage to say so.

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