Planning Board refines multifamily housing proposal

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 11, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Planning Board members Kevin Melo, Lorri-Ann Miller, and Joseph Toomey listen to John Sousa (second from left) discuss the police station zoning proposal.

The Planning Board is aiming to expand multifamily housing along a section of State Road before fall Town Meeting. It introduced a first draft of the bylaw change that would allow such development at its July 10 meeting.

It is the second time the board has taken up the idea. A similar proposal was put forth by the Select Board earlier this year, and was ultimately withdrawn before the spring Town Meeting amid concerns with the proposal's scope and language.

The new proposal narrows the area in which multifamily housing developments would be allowed to the southerly portion of Route 6, between Cross Road to the Westport town line. Development would require approval of a special permit from the board.

Much of the discussion centered on affordable housing and density requirements in the bylaw draft. Some board members remained supportive of expanding the town’s stock of affordable housing units, but debated between a 10-percent affordable housing requirement or providing a 0.5 unit-per-acre bonus for meeting the proposed requirement.

Board member Kevin Melo questioned the effect such a percentage would have on luxury development.

"If a developer came in and wanted to develop, let’s say a gated community, ultra high-end, with no chance of low-income housing, they can’t,” Melo said. “We’re ruling that out 100-percent by doing this. Is that really what we want to do?”

Members voted to do away with the affordable unit bonus while maintaining the 10-percent affordability requirement.

The board also upped the density requirements from an original proposal that would've allowed 3.5 units-per-acre on a vacant site and four units-per-acre on contaminated land. The new density requirements allow for four units-per-acre and 4.5 units-per-acre, respectively.

The draft bylaw limits multifamily buildings to three stories and 16 units per building. No changes were made to those requirements during the meeting.

The draft of the bylaw will be reviewed by Town Counsel, and the board will host a public hearing at a future meeting. The board plans to have the proposal ready for a vote at the fall Town Meeting.

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