Affordable housing development proposed for Route 6

By Douglas McCulloch | Nov 13, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCullooch

An expansion of affordable housing at the Dartmouth Woods apartment complex on Route 6 is back on the table, and developers are seeking the town’s endorsement of the project before kicking off the application process.

At Monday's Select Board meeting, Dartmouth Woods owners and their attorneys unveiled the latest proposal -- an affordable housing project to bring two and three-bedroom units to a site on State Road near Reed Road in an area currently occupied by Joe’s Used Cycles.

A previously proposed expansion was effectively shot down at Town Meeting last month when members did not approve a zoning bylaw update that would have allowed multi-family housing on State Road from Cross Road to the Westport town line.

But under the state's Chapter 40B affordable housing law, developers have another avenue to pursue. In towns whose affordable housing stock is less than 10 percent, developers seeking to build affordable housing are able to bypass certain local zoning laws.

According to Town Administrator David Cressman, Dartmouth's affordable housing stock is at 8.25 percent, which effectively paves the way for the Dartmouth Woods project to proceed.

Developers are hoping to move the project forward with town support through the  Local Initiative Program (LIP). The process is intended to give the town and developers tools to work cooperatively in planning and approving a 40B project.

“It does give the town more control over the project than the standard 40B development because it’s more of a partnership,” said attorney Paul Haverty, appearing on behalf of the applicant.

Feingold added that the developers have been open to working with the town in the past with its original proposal, and aims to continue to do so even under 40B.

“I don’t think I have represented many, or any, developers who have been more sensitive to and accommodating to the requests of town boards, especially the Planning Board,” Feingold said.

The proposal is largely identical to Dartmouth Woods’ original plan, explained attorney Robert Feingold, but there are several changes. An entrance on Reed Road was changed to emergency access only and would be gated off and only accessible to emergency personnel, and the total number of units was reduced from 320 to less than 300. Three-bedroom units were also added.

Member Shawn McDonald said he had concerns with the addition of three-bedroom units, which he said could bring more kids to Dartmouth as opposed to the two-bedroom units, but he didn’t rule out working with the developers.

“To be honest I’m not comfortable with 40B but I understand the reasons behind it, and I would rather work with the developer to get the town friendly development,” McDonald said.

Member John Haren asked if it would be possible to try and get the original concept passed again, but Dartmouth Woods representatives said that would most likely amount to “spot zoning,” which is when zoning changes are made to benefit a specific property owner. The multi-family housing bylaw was intended to eliminate that risk as it had an initial three properties that could have been suitable for development.

The Select Board did not take a vote on endorsing the project through the Local Initiative Program. Members decided that more information was needed, and will continue the discussion at the Select Board's next meeting.

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