Campanelli Thorndike 40B Project to Move Forward
Turtle Crossing not enough to invoke 2 percent Safe Harbor rule.
The progress on the Turtle Crossing development is not enough to deny the permit application process of Campanelli Thorndike Norton, LLC under the 2 percent Safe Harbor rule.
The Zoning Board of Appeals made this determination at a public hearing Monday night, after receiving counsel from the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Massachusetts has mandated that at least 10 percent of every city and town’s housing qualifies as affordable. The 2 percent Safe Harbor rule would have allowed the Board to deny the application outright before going through with the rest of the public hearing if it was determined that the town made sufficient progress in the 12 months prior to this application being filed this past fall toward building affordable housing.
“The question was whether the Board’s reconsideration of a project called Turtle Crossing, which we did this past June, means that those units, those 167 units, can be counted toward the number which would put us over 2 percent for the past 12 months, giving us the option to saying no to the application.”
Four years ago, 167 units were approved for Turtle Crossing, but were lapsed from the affordable housing Subsidized Housing Inventory list because they did not start building within a year. Early in 2012, Turtle Crossing switched ownership and asked for modifications to the original permit, which the Board thought could be deemed newly approved and put those 167 units back into the housing stock. Debra Goddard, general counsel of the Department of Housing and Community Development, determined the project was not newly approved, and therefore did not count towards the 10 percent goal.
"As of May, we would be at 10.7 percent if every single one of these units were built the way they were supposed to be built," said Selectman Bob Kimball. "It's a major flaw in the system." He also noted that this number does not include two of the projects on the table.
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The Town of Norton had the option of pursuing litigation, but the Board of Selectmen decided against it. They are, however, filing legislation to change the mandate so that projects in the works will count toward the goal.
“I’m of the same mindset that I was a week ago, that this is an issue that has already passed. It’s water under the bridge,” said Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Thomas Noel. “I don’t feel responsible making a decision that the only effect of which I see is triggering a legal fight.
“I don’t think the right thing to do is to commit this town to a legal challenge that’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars and probably end up on the losing side.”
The proposed project from Campanelli Thorndike would bring in 230 affordable housing units to land located on 274 E. Main St. Next door to Red Mill Village, these units are 60 feet high with three floors and an additional loft on some units.
The public hearing was a continuation from Dec. 10. About 60 residents were present, including Robert Kimball of the Board of Selectmen and Red Mill Village occupants. They expressed many concerns, such as sewer, traffic and landscaping. The Zoning Board of Appeals noted that these issues would be addressed by Campanelli Thorndike at future meetings.
The continuation of the public hearing will be held 7:35 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 at Norton Public Library.