The Wellesley Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) has given its unanimous blessing — with conditions — to Wellesley Residential LLC, which plans to build a 44-unit residential condo complex at 135 Great Plain Ave. under the state’s 40B statute that allows zoning flexibility for developers in exchange for a portion of their units being offered at relatively affordable prices. This is the first of the slew of 40B projects that emerged last year in Wellesley to get its Comprehensive Permit okayed by the town.
“I would say that of the 4 or 5 40B projects that I’m familiar with just for the last year or so, this one in my view is the least impactful on neighbors of any of them by far,” said the ZBA’s Walter Adams at meeting this week, while addressing comments of an abutter who is unhappy with the project.
The developer originally planned to plunk 12 multi-million dollar single-family homes onto the 12 acres on Rte. 135 nearby the Wellesley Recycling & Disposal Facility — until it determined that wouldn’t generate a big enough payout. It then hatched Plan B (or maybe a plan further down the alphabet…), dubbed Fieldstone Way, marketed as an answer to the town of Wellesley’s true housing prayers in that it will be a haven for down-sizers as well as those seeking affordable housing, such as municipal workers. While ZBA members emphasized that they “haven’t rolled over” during the Fieldstone Way approval process, the developer did get some of its prayers answered in the form of bylaw waivers related to trees, front yard size and structure height.
Wellesley Residential is certainly in better shape than the other 40B developers targeting Wellesley at this point. A handful of such proposals continue to slog their way through the approval process, with the Stearns Road and 680 Worcester St., projects getting their latest hearings earlier this week, and those at 148 Weston Road and Delanson Circle awaiting their next meetings in mid-November and early December, respectively.
As Fieldstone Way’s backers well know, the process is involved (and murky, according to neighbors). The project’s road has included the site eligibility approval process, and a seemingly endless series of meetings, studies and reports on topics of concern to the town and neighbors involving everything from traffic to wetlands to storm water management. And this project remains an undone deal.
Wellesley Planning Director Michael Zehner said that once the ZBA’s decision on the Comprehensive Permit is filed with the Town Clerk, there is a 20-day appeal period before the decision can be recorded at the Registry of Deeds. Then the developer will need to adhere to the more than 6 dozen conditions stuffed into the decision document.
We’ve reached out to Wellesley Residential LLC via Northland Residential (these projects are almost always handled through a layer of LLCs for reasons beyond my business knowledge) to get a sense of when they hope to begin construction and even get people moved into its 1-to-3 bedroom condos, understanding that such project timelines can be slippery. We haven’t seen any mention of possible pricing for the condos yet.
Meanwhile, the torrent of 40B proposals in Wellesley has slowed to a trickle, and the state’s recent approval of Wellesley’s Housing Production Plan should keep it that way. The plan shows that the town is taking a thoughtful approach to getting at least 10% of its housing stock to the affordable level, as defined in the 40B rules.
For its part, Fieldstone Way will contribute 11 affordable units to the mix.