The Wellesley Board of Selectmen has raised a boatload of concerns in its comments to the quasi-public MassHousing agency regarding the proposed 40B project on Stearns Road, just across the parking lot from Sprague Elementary School. A 36-unit residential housing development is proposed on the site, which formerly contained a single-family home. The town says the project is “too intense” for its location, on about an acre plot.
This proposal is one of a handful of possible 40B projects that have cropped up in Wellesley this year, including another nearby on Rte. 9 East (680 Worcester St.).
The Board of Selectmen’s letter reads in part: “The Town finds the location of the proposed project unacceptable given the limited access to the site and proximity to the 680 Worcester Street project (proposed by the same developer) currently in Site Eligibility review with MassHousing. The Town finds the project’s density, scale, and height incompatible with the neighborhood and finds the project will have a detrimental impact on abutters due to mass, scale, and traffic based on both its independent construction and relationship to the 680 Worcester Street Project…”
The BoS goes on to cite issues with the project requiring “a tremendous removal of site material and the installation of 7-11 foot retaining walls along the abutting properties with no fencing proposed.” The Fire Department has expressed concern over access to the structure, which would be the highest residential one in town at 81-feet at one point (Stearns Road is a dead end street comprising 17 single-family homes). Water, sewage and stormwater management are all concerns as well for the town. (Read the entire letter below.)
Stearns Road residents opposed to the project have rallied to get their voices heard as well, and have spearheaded the Our Affordable Wellesley campaign in town.
The scary fact for them is that 40B projects rarely get shot down in Massachusetts communities that lack enough affordable housing units.
The Wellesley BoS makes its pitch to MassHousing that it is trying its best to get to 10% of its housing stock being affordable, including via zoning changes and subsidized housing development. Because Wellesley is only at 6.3% now, it is vulnerable to 40B proposals that allow developers to get around zoning rules in exchange for including affordable units in their projects. The town is working on a housing production plan to better document its efforts and to eventually get the town to 10% affordability, and has been scouring its records to find affordable units that have been unaccounted for.