Here’s the latest on Wellesley 40B activity…
The envelope please…
Wellesley’s Board of Selectmen, Planing Board and Housing Development Corp., liked both consulting teams that bid to work on the town’s housing production plan, but unanimously wound up choosing the team of Barrett Planning LLC & JM Goldson community preservation + planning (Wellesley Public Media recorded the interview session if you’re interested in viewing).
Both teams had experience with other communities’ (Brookline, Bedford, etc.) housing production plans and put forth creative ways to engage with the Wellesley community during the process of assembling a plan designed to put the town more in control of its destiny on the affordable and other housing fronts. Judi Barrett, from the winning team, said during her interview that she always advises clients to seek advice from “3 people they love and 3 they cannot stand,” so be forewarned that you might fall into one of those categories if you wind up getting such a personal invitation for input from the town…
The winning bid, for $35K, was revealed in a semi-dramatic envelope opening (at about the 32-minute mark of video) that Planning chief Michael Zehner pulled off without one of those Oscar-like snafus. Town officials made their selection, though noted that they still needed to do some reference checking, etc., before finalizing their decision.
Assuming that all goes well, next up will be looking over a first draft of the plan, holding a public open house later this month, nailing down a final draft in January and then getting the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen to give the plan their final blessing in February or March. Once the plan is in place it would help set Wellesley on a course of boosting its affordable housing inventory on a regular basis that would satisfy state rules and help fend off 40B proposals that the town and residents find hostile.
Weston Road’s 40B proposal
The Planning Board and Board of Selectmen this past week publicly discussed the BoS’s draft letter of response to a local developer’s site eligibility application to build a 55-unit housing complex, with 11 of the rental units to be deemed affordable, at 148 Weston Rd. This 40B project, dubbed Wellesley Park, would be located in between a couple of homes in the North 40 area of town.
But the town has plenty of concerns about this project, too, with traffic impact being perhaps the largest, both in terms of how a project of this density could clog up Weston Road and neighboring streets. The town also has raised concerns about privacy infringement on neighbors, whose yards the project would bump right up against and hover over, and is disappointed by the lack of a public storm water plan.
A handful of neighbors spoke at the Planning Board meeting, airing their issues with the project (Wellesley Public Media recorded the meeting). One referred to the project as being “preposterous” and akin to plopping an aircraft carrier into the middle of Sturbridge Village. The project shows no concern for the people who live near it, he said, and would essentially trap neighbors in a traffic prison.
The Board of Selectmen will continue its review of the letter to MassHousing (a quasi-public outfit that oversees and funds affordable housing projects) at 8:35 pm on Monday, Nov. 27 at Town Hall. Public comments are welcome, but residents are encouraged to submit comments in advance of the meeting to email@example.com
James Smith says
I can’t really blame this Peter Holland guy. He’s just trying to make a nickel — it’s America after all! The folks to blame here are the politicians in Beacon Hill. This idea that every town in the state, regardless of it’s density and zoning, history and current community, will have 10% affordable housing is ludicrous. It just doesn’t make sense to demand that a bedroom community like Wellesley be required to have these “aircraft carrier” projects jammed in between single family homes. Wellesley is built out. What little tiny patches of land there are should either be reserved as open space for the benefit of the current residents, or potentially zoned single family residential where appropriate.
I really urge the folks at Barret Planning to fight for residents, not for developers and politicians who are only in it for themselves. Like I said, I don’t blame Mr. Holland for trying to make a million bucks, but maybe he should be forced to live in the house next to the 55 unit “aircraft carrier” for 15 years after he builds it. Same goes for the politician in Beacon Hill who is beating this affordable housing drum. That’s fine if you want it built, but you come bring your family to live right next to it. These developers and politicians stand to gain, while the residents of Wellesley lose. It’s simply not fair and residents need to stand up and fight this before our town is ruined – so crowded we are all on top of each other like cows in feed lot.
Albert Berry says
See, I do have some frustration towards Mr. Holland and would actually like the opportunity to speak with him to better understand how a “hostile” 40B manages to get approvals and where these profits are going. I personally am directly effected from the Delanson Circle project and the Weston Rd project because my house sits on cut through street from Linden to Route 9 that is already massively crowded. The awareness of the “hostile” 40B’s aren’t getting enough attention and sadly the approvals that are being made are from government officials (or “opportunists”) that don’t live in the Linden / Weston Rd area. Ultimately, being new to the Wellesley community, I feel local government is putting the conveniences of new affordable housing profits over my own – a Wellesley resident.
I guess I meant that it’s hard to blame a guy for trying to make a profit in America, just generally speaking. Now, whether or not it is ethical is a different story. In a moral context, I agree with you that Holland should toss and turn at night if he ends up actually jamming this thing through with Beacon Hills support, against the wish of local residents. Because as you pointed out, he is going to have taken serious advantage of residents unfortunate situation of being (to no fault of our own by the way!), on the wrong side of this ridiculous state law. Meanwhile, he rides off into the sunset with a sack full of gold, while residents remain to deal with the fallout. Probably not an ethical move on his part, but the problem is, he is just being opportunistic. If he doesn’t do it, it will be someone else. That’s capitalism for you I suppose.
As someone who is just starting to dig into this, I cannot comment for sure as to where the Wellesley Planning Board stands on all this, but it is my feeling at this point that they are in the trenches fighting this for residents like you and I. They are trying to reject projects that don’t fit it as best they can, but because the state politicians have created a law that allows developers to sidestep local zoning laws in certain instances, we are at the states mercy. If anyone is to blame here, its the folks up on Beacon Hill. It’s an old fashioned land grab and the rich will get richer and the people will suffer. Whether it’s Wellesley or some other town. The developers line their pockets, the lucky few get a handout, and the masses pay. I understand your frustration. Every resident should feel the same way because whether or not you live on a cut through or a back road, we will all pay as traffic grinds to a standstill.
Albert Berry says
I can relate to much of what you said; it wasn’t too long ago that I became aware of this. The main problem is that these are “hostile” developments, meaning the land area is too dense to support the proposed number of units, and other unlawfully state regulations required for a required 40B. These are getting town approvals so it’s best to speak out now as the state as shown to turn a blind eye as all they seem to care about is the town having 10% affordable housing as mandated – by the state.
Agreed completely. The question is, even by speaking out now, can we deflect these hostile developments. Hard to say at this point, but the odds are against it. I know the Planning Board is trying – they rejected the first proposal for the Delanson Circle, 90 unit monster. Apparently, as long as the town is under 10% and the town has not had a “HPP” (Housing Production Plan, I believe) approved by the state, then the developers can use 40B to push through the development (a “hostile” because it goes against local planning/zoning). That is why this other group being led by Pete Buhler is trying to get that HPP in place ASAP. As I understand it, if that were to happen, there would be two consequences – one positive, one negative. The positive is that the town protects itself from the hostile developments. The bad news, is that whether we like it or not, eventually these projects will have to be built (as laid out in the HPP), which ultimately lands us in the same place as if we never had the HPP to begin with – with too much density. In other words, whether it’s good for local residents or not, the state is forcing the density down our throats with no regard to how it impacts residents quality of life (noise, traffic, school class size, etc.)
Overall, 40B is a classic example of a government policy that probably was put into law in good faith, but that has proven to have horrible unintended consequences. The folks in Beacon Hill are supposed to be representing the tax payers. Yet in this instance, the only ones being represented by Beacon Hill are the developers. A few lucky lottery winners will get a tax payer subsidized home, which is great, but it is spit in the ocean in terms of providing a long term solution to the challenge of “affordability.” Of course in reality, the only way to reduce the cost of housing in greater Boston would be to move Boston to Oklahoma. In other words, as long as Boston is land constrained and has a strong economy, housing is going to be expensive. So 40B is really just a band-aid. Developers gets rich quick, an infinitesimal percentage of people who qualify for the subsidized housing actually get to participate, and then the residents of the town pay for years and years into the future.