(Updated: July 11) Hot on the heels of last month’s joint Wellesley Board of Selectmen/Planning Board meeting on a new proposal for a 95-unit housing development off of Linden Street that brought concerned neighbors out in force, a new proposal for a 44-unit condo complex on 135 Great Plain Ave., will be up for discussion at a July 10 Planning meeting (see Wellesley Public Media video below).
Both of these proposed projects, as well as a renewed one at 680 Worcester St., that appeared to have fizzled out last year, are 40B projects that include relatively affordable housing in exchange for looser zoning treatment by the town.
The potential 40B project at 135 Great Plain Ave. (Rte. 135 toward the dump) would replace a previously approved project by developer Northland to divvy up 12 acres on Great Plain Avenue among 12 single-family homes that likely would have been of the multi-million dollar variety. Northland now wants to build more than 3 times as many units at the Great Plain Avenue parcel, but in a condo and townhouse configuration that would include affordable units. As explained in a letter from a Northland VP, it turns out the company doesn’t think the previous plan is financially viable enough either for itself or 10 other developers given a chance to buy the permitted project.
Northland’s spin on the potential new 40B project, which would sit in the Fiske Elementary School district, is that it would be in line with housing recommendations in Wellesley’s comprehensive plan and protect open space designated under the existing project plan.
“The new community will create a diversity of housing that is much needed in Wellesley. More specifically, the majority of homes will be thoughtfully designed to meet the housing needs of ‘older homeowners wishing to downsize, but with no alternative available locally’,” according to Northland.
While some residents who live nearby are lamenting that they hadn’t heard a peep about the new plan until this week and that the Monday night meeting is taking place while many might be away on vacation, it sounds as though there could still be a strong showing at the meeting now that word is getting out.
The rise of 40B proposals and other efforts to make more affordable housing available in Wellesley, along with the seemingly nonstop tearing down of older houses and replacement with big new ones, has made the relationship between developers, town officials and residents increasingly touchy in recent years. Town officials are attempting to address development concerns in the near term through bylaws and decisions made on new proposals, but they are also urging all involved to participate in the ongoing Unified Plan process that is tackling these issues. Town officials have stressed that they are not against development, and that more affordable housing is necessary. Planning Director Michael Zehner even tossed out the idea at the July 10 Planning meeting that it might not be a bad idea to purse a request for proposal for development at the Tailby lot, which currently provides parking for the Wellesley Square train station, and is directly across the street from the proposed Delanson Circle project.
Zehner also said at the meeting that the recent 40B proposals “have us all wondering…when do we need to pull any potential trigger to be more proactive about addressing things and how do we even go about doing that?” He’s up for creating a task force involving affected boards and stakeholders.
Board secretary Harriet Warshaw said that “repeatedly we’ve heard from the public that everybody wants [affordable housing in town] but… And I think there’s a lot of education that has to go on to make us all aware of what we’re really talking about when we say ‘affordable,’ what we’re really talking about when we say ‘diversity,’ and what the impacts are… there are trade-offs that will have to be made.” She raised the idea of having a forum in the fall at which experts would speak to help bring better understanding of the issues to the community.
Lorri woodacre says
Seems there is a pattern of setting important planning board hearings in summer months when many residents are away . Why?
Thomas Pappas says
It honestly just falls that way
No one is ever usually trying to get over on anyone in the 40b process
The state overrides the Town as long as the 10% has not been met by the Town
So if the Town has not met the minimum 10% level local residents and local government can not stop the developers
Usually it’s the local government playing the games to thwart lower income families from coming in.
This Town/City is getting way too congested for more Apartments/Condos to be built. The classrooms in our kids schools is already at capacity. Also are they forgetting more and more people are renting out their houses in this town with families with multiple kids moving in..more kids in our classrooms. Where are they going to put our already gridlocked traffic? Are the Clowns who are running this Town now going to add more traffic lights? Really the one that is located next to Linden Deli at Hollis Street is so useless! It just clogs up Linden Street even more and the parking lot that it is adjacent to hardly any cars come and go from it. Also the affordable units they keep adding goes to People who aren’t even from here if you know what I mean! I can’t wait to move out of here,,oh first I will tear down my home, rebuild and rent it out!!
Agree with Tristy on everything! There is too much traffic already and more useless lights (Like the one at Linden at Hollis) are NOT the answer. Stop giving developers who want to build huge complexes special treatment because they agree to add “Affordable housing.” Next thing you know there will be a huge complex going in on the land where the gardens are on Weston and the traffic back up that occurs at Linden and Weston will stretch all the back past Route 9 at rush hour…is that what you people want? Really?
Learned Reader says
“Also the affordable units they keep adding goes to People who aren’t even from here if you know what I mean!”
Actually, I don’t know what you mean. Could you be specific about what “People” you are referring to, just so everyone is clear? Thanks!
Phil Ludwig says
Why does Wellesley need affordable housing? “Diversity” is not a good answer.
Additionally, there is already way too much traffic in this town. We should not be building housing complexes- period!
Lastly, when an old house is torn down it is almost always replaced with a better looking house that is built to accommodate a modern way of living. It also raises the value for tax purposes as which ultimately benefits us all.
Learned Reader says
Is “it’s required by state law” a good answer?
If not, perhaps “because almost no town employees – like the teachers we pay to teach our kids, the police and fire officers we pay to respond to our emergencies, and the DPW workers we pay pave our roads – live in Wellesley anymore, because they can’t afford to, and that seems wrong?”
Note that our peer communities of Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, and Natick are all in compliance with state law on affordable housing, and they don’t seem to have suffered any ill effects.
Yes — that is the ONLY answer that works. Just because a person is employed in a town does not mean they automatically get the option to live there as well. Just think of what a wonderful world full of butterflies and candy canes it would be if everyone could just live wherever they wanted. Makes no sense. Traffic and congestion are real problems. They make life for EVERYONE worse. Concord, Lexington, Lincoln and Natick are much more spread out and the roads can handle the extra load. Linden street (especially at Weston intersection) is already a ZOO and they want to add 95 more homes where there are currently 5??? Tell me how that makes sense.
Our town needs more affordable housing and greater housing diversity. I’d like to remain in Wellesley after I retire — having apartments or more condos available might make that possible. The state sets a goal for each community to set aside 10% of its housing as affordable. Wellesley hasn’t yet met that goal — other nearby communities like Lexington and Natick have gotten to 10%. Let’s go our part to help the state.