At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, town manager Richard Montuori formally advised the board that Houston-based Hanover Co. submitted its proposal for a 300-unit 40B rental housing development at Ames Pond to MassHousing.
In turn, MassHousing sent the town a letter indicating that it had received the application.
The town now has until Oct. 13 to return to MassHousing input from Tewksbury boards and committees, officials and interested parties. Areas the agency will evaluate include the proposed site and design concept, financial feasibility and the appropriateness of the project in relation to local housing needs and strategies.
Montuori said the Hanover proposal is in excess of 90 pages and that department heads, who were already preparing, now have additional material to review. He has asked for final comments by Sept. 22 so there is sufficient time to compile a draft response to present at the next BoS meeting, on Sept 28. The goal is to come out of that meeting with a completed, approved list of concerns and requests.
“We have the framework of a letter ready to go,” said Montuori. “So we are off and running with this project.”
While Montuori said he doesn’t expect MassHousing to make many changes to the application, this is the time for stakeholders from the School Committee to the DPW to get on the record with concerns.
Lines of Communication
Despite being past the residents’ portion of the evening’s agenda, chairman Jay Kelly opened the floor to those in attendance.
Cardigan Rd. resident Bob O’Brien circled back to the pending sale of the Residences at Joan’s Farm matter addressed earlier in the evening and pointed out that, had the Planning Board not given that developer fee in lieu of consideration, the town might have had as many as 40 additional affordable units in its portfolio.
Granting by the Planning Board of “fee in lieu,” where the developer pays a one-time fee to the town rather than provide affordable units in multifamily developments, has been widely cited as a factor in the town falling below 10% affordable units and thus being subject to a 40B project.
“Now that [Joan’s Farm] has changed hands, can we go back as a town and say, all right, you gave the prior owner the waiver, does that waiver carry on perpetually?” asked O’Brien. “I’m just wondering if we have a way to recapture any prior fee-in-lieu of decisions as ownership of the property changes.”
Even if the new owner agreed to provide affordable units, they would not come online in time to affect the Hanover proposal. LEARN MORE.
Another resident asked rhetorically whether the board had spoken to anyone who “doesn’t wear a hard hat to work” who is in favor of the project. In fact, Tewksbury’s property values are such that there are residents who would welcome an increased stock of affordable — which is not synonymous with low-income — housing.
Kelly explained that the best approach now is to seek to work with Hanover to get the best possible deal for the town as a whole.
“We’re doing all the right things,” said Kelly. “We have to play ball with them. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going through the process. And I think that’s what we have to do as a community.”
Montuori agreed to provide the letter from MassHousing to O’Brien for dissemination to Cardigan Rd. residents, and selectman Jayne Wellman asked the town manager to set up page on the town’s website to collect emails from residents who would like to send in written comments, and to provide news and announcements.