Caine’s Crossing: 11 senior housing units approved at Southville & Parkerville

Above: Only one ZBA member opposed inserting an 11-unit project in the midst of a “unique area” comprised of historic homes. (Image cropped from Google Maps)

Over objections from neighbors, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a permit to build an 11-unit senior housing development on the corner of Southville and Parkerville roads.

The 4-1 decision capped the project at one less than the application requested. The vote was made at the end of the second hearing on Caine’s Crossing at Lincoln’s Square.

Developer Jack Bartolini, of Bartolini Builders*, had applied to build a cluster of 4 single family homes and 4 duplexes. It’s a project that was purportedly encouraged by former Town Planner Jennifer Burney as filling a senior housing need in Southborough.

On Wednesday night, board members debated how many units zoning code would allow. Meanwhile, residents spoke in dissent of the need, affordability, and suitability of the project.

Some residents argued against the density of the project and its appearance.

Karen Bernhardt of Southville Road said when the developer first came with a smaller project the board sided with residents’ concerns about density.  She claims they asked him to come back with fewer units. Instead he came back with more units under the senior terms. 

The property is surrounded by historic homes. At a previous hearing in February, at least one resident objected to plans for vinyl sided duplexes. And multiple residents objected to backs of houses facing Southville.

The development will be built on property shown to the left here on Southville Road (cropped from Google Maps)The density and appearance arguments held sway with only one member. Andrew Dennington characterized the area as unique and believed the project wasn’t in the neighborhood’s best interest. Others believed the appearance was irrelevant or in keeping with the overall Town character.

The development will be built beyond the house shown here on the right of Parkerville Road (cropped from Google Maps)[Editor’s Note: I was curious about the purported uniqueness. So I used Google Maps to get a better look at the surrounding properties. Click on thumbnails to see a two more of the views I found.]

The other zoning disagreement was based on law allowing concessions for clustering of senior housing that specifies:

The total cumulative number of units approved under this section. . . shall at no time exceed seven (7%) percent of the total number of one-family houses in Southborough at the beginning of the year in which the application is filed

The Town calculated that as allowing 11.6 more units this year. Bartolini was told by Burney and the Building Inspector that meant 12 units were allowed. ZBA member Thomas Bhistikul pointed out that anything over 11.6 exceeds 7%. His position was supported by the majority of the board.

Dissenting members Paul Drepanos and David Eagle worried that eliminating one unit would impact the affordability of remaining units. And Eagle argued that the developer shouldn’t be penalized for the Town’s mistake. He repeatedly pressed that 12 units were within the spirit of law and within the board’s discretion.

As for the housing need, a letter from realtor Ginny Martins supported the developer’s claimed that there is a shortage of affordable condo options for seniors looking to downsize while staying within town. She said condos selling last year averaged at $605,000, above the price range for most homeowners in town. On the other end of the spectrum were much older and smaller units at Colonial Gardens.

Bartolini clarified that the seniors’ needs are less about smaller homes and more about reducing maintenance work, including clearing driveways. He said that is why seniors are looking for condos with homeowners agreements.

The units will be market driven, and the price point will be impacted by fluctuating costs, including fuel. But he projects them to be within the $400,000s.

Residents argued that could be as high as $480-490k, which they deemed not affordable. ZBA members debated whether affordability was a decision factor. Bhistikul pointed to zoning language looking to provide for “needs of Southborough residents of varying economic levels”.

But even he was convinced that the project would fill a void in senior housing diversity. And member Jeff Walker furthered that this would be more affordable than any other new construction in Southborough.

Walker also addressed residents’ concerns about the project’s impact on area drainage issues. (An issue debated in depth in February.) He stressed that the standards the developer will have to meet for the Conservation Commission are stringent. He believed it is being handled properly and supported the developer’s assertion that doing it right impedes making the units more affordable.

Southville resident Freddie Gillespie disagreed about the Town’s need for more Over 55 units. She participated in the Town’s 2015 . She claimed the board that the consultant projected there would be 76 too many Over 55 units by 2020. 

[Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find the data she was referring to on the Planning Board website. I did find a strategic Housing Production Plan from February 2015. That document describes an increasingly aging population. And the plan summary and goals call for increasing housing options for seniors. I’ve reached out to Gillespie to find out what data she is referring to, but haven’t heard back yet. I may update this post later based on her response.]

Gillespie also suggested that the 7% figure was fallible. She claimed that the Town recently changed the way that number was calculated. And she believed Assessor’s tallies included pool houses as a second single family.

Bhistikul rebutted that their job was to operate based on the numbers given to them by the Town, not to do their own counts and calculations.

Before closing the hearing, Bhistikul persuaded Bartolini that a 12 unit project was likely to lose if appealed by neighbors. The developer agreed to lower his ask to 11 units in order to get the board’s approval.

Bartolini didn’t specify how the plans would change based on the revised number. The project will still have to proceed to the Planning Board for a Site Plan Review and pass muster with the Conservation Commission.

*Again, Jack Bartolini is related to (cousin of) ZBA Chair Leo Bartolini. Although not required to by law, the Chair opted to recuse himself at the opening of the hearing in February. He handed the reins to Bhistikul.

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8 years ago

$400k 55+ housing there is great, thanks for the report

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

One specific comment on the sales price for existing sr. condos… reported at an average of $600,000. I live in the town’s first development with sr. condos and see sales prices from $250s up to a high of about $390,000. There are several variables: decks, sunrooms, type of flooring, and a few finished room and maybe bath in basement.

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

Second page… hit wrong key. These could be combined.

The $600,000 price would, I suggest, belong to units in Carriage Hill… the most expensive, I believe, though I don’t know prices for all. Carriage Hill is certainly deluxe in the views of many–a clubhouse, most are 3 floors, great views, decks, and I believe more expensive “amenities,” given the prices.
Then the prices I see in ads for properties in the development just north of Rte. 9 on Middle Road (name I forget)… are also high. (What are the prices at Madison Place for affordable?)
IN FACT: we hoped to have this first development (Southborough Meadows) be affordable to people in Southborough not able or wanting to have the responsibilities for maintenance of home and yard anymore. Initially the basic price was about $200,000 (plus optional items above) –and yet very few people here lived in Southborough before–I believe I am the only one from the town who has lived here since the start (1998, I think).
The price went up very quickly. I can only recall 2 or 3 others from town who were residents here at some point in all since ’98. When I talk with others of my age range in town, the price as a stumbling block generally comes up.
Argue as you will, but beware of the argument above as a support for building expensive unit.
Perhaps some will join me in wondering how we can justify the “affordable” description.

Souse Bro
8 years ago

Why would a realtor supporting this overpriced “affordable” housing even bring up Colonial Gardens? It is all rental on a sliding scale for the elderly and disabled who just can’t come up with the $400-$500K plus condo fees to move into these beautiful “affordable” condos. I think MOST of this ZBA board needs replacing ASAP, they just don’t how it is to live in the real world…

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