Park Central eligible for 40B with guidance

The Town posted the Project Eligibility finding letter from MassHousing

Above: The state approved the site identified for a large condo project abutting a Southborough neighborhood, but advised the developer to “continue” “good-faith discussions” with the Town about site related concerns. (image cropped from project site eligibility application.)

In February, the Town Administrator informed the Select Board that MassHousing approved the Park Central application for Project Site Eligibility.

Yesterday, the Town posted the letter allowing the developer to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a 200 unit 40B Affordable Housing project off of Flagg Road. Acknowledging the many concerns raised by Town officials and residents, MassHousing’s Counsel indicates that those should be addressed through the permitting process.

In the Select Board’s September letter asked MassHousing not to grant the site approval letter unless it included at least five “Key Requirements” to address concerns. Instead, General Counsel refers to the application process under the Zoning Board of Appeals as providing local boards and residents the opportunity to review the project “to ensure compliance with applicable state and local standards and regulations”.

In the last go round*, that is an area where developer William Depietri butted heads with the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board. There was also conflict between those boards and the ZBA.*

The letter does provide some guidelines for the developer, but with language too vague to consider them significant restrictions. It lists items that that the applicant should address in the application to ZBA and be “fully prepared” to explore in the hearing. 

Those include “to provide sufficient data to assess potential traffic impacts on area roadways and intersections, including the safety of the proposed site access and egress, and to respond to reasonable requests for mitigation.” 

Although the letter refers to concerns the Select Board raised about tall buildings being massed up against an abutting neighborhood, the closest the guidance comes to addressing that concern is instructing the applicant to:

continue to engage with municipal officials in a good-faith discussion regarding site-related concerns, including, but not limited to, issues regarding a roadway design and public safety considerations.

In the previous project iteration, the developer filed multiple appeals against Conservation Commission decisions. The letter notes that prior to a building permit being issued, the developer will have to show evidence of compliance with state and federal environmental laws and regulations related to stormwater, wastewater, water treatment, etc. The applicant must also “provide an adequate stormwater management plan for the Site, including erosion control measures during and after construction.”

The project is specified as limited to 200 units and at least 50 restricted as affordable for low-or moderate-income persons or families. Yet, it follows that adding additional units, or changing the height/type of building “may” require submitting a new Site Approval application for review. (So it may not?)

You can read the letter here. You can read the Select Board’s letter from September outlining their concerns here.**

In September, realizing the project was likely coming their way, the ZBA held a discussion with Town Counsel to review the 40B application process. (Only one of the current members was directly involved in the last Park Central 40B approval.) You can read his overview of the expected process in their minutes here, and view the meeting here.

No hearing is publicly scheduled yet. Stay tuned.

*One of the many court cases related to the controversial Park Central housing project approved in 2016 was Planning’s appeal filed against the ZBA’s decision for combining the 40B condo project with a 40A townhouse project. The suit was withdrawn after the Select Board continued to refuse approving special counsel to represent Planning. Ultimately, in an appeal filed by residents, the court opined that the projects were wrongly combined to grant special 40B rights to a non-affordable project and vacated the permit. That is why the developer is started the 40B application from scratch again.

**Updated (10/2/23 1:22 pm): Links to the Town website were no longer were working, since a new site was launched in May. I was able to replace some but have not yet been able to locate the Select Board’s letter with attachments sent to MassHousing.

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