- Written by Administrator
- Published: 18 January 2008
According to selectmen, Hamadeh should use this time to produce other "pro formas" showing developments with less density and crunching the numbers to show whether the costs of building fewer units would still allow him to make a "reasonable" profit.
Selectmen postponed a vote on Hamadeh's West Bay Landing until May 14 after hearing concerns from within their own board regarding density and from an attorney representing 200 area neighbors. They promised to vote on that date. They also had not yet received written comments from the Planning Board, who discussed the proposal last week. However, selectmen rejected a request from the Planning Board to require Hamadeh pay for an engineering consultant to study his plans.
West Bay Landing consists of ten buildings each containing two attached single-family condominiums on ten acres between Torrey Lane and Soule Avenue. Six of the 20 units will be offered as affordable homes.
Under the Local Initiative Program, selectmen endorse a "friendly 40B" because it benefits the town. West Bay Landing is Duxbury's first L.I.P. The L.I.P. is a state-housing program established to give towns more flexibility in providing affordable housing. L.I.P. projects are known as "friendly 40B's" because the developer works in a co-operative manner with town officials when going through the comprehensive permit process under MGL Chapter 40B. Under the L.I.P., endorsement by selectmen is the first step in the process. Known as the "anti-snob zoning law," Chapter 40B is a state law that allows builders to bypass local zoning laws and town committee reviews when developing land, provided that 25 percent of the housing units are kept affordable. Chapter 40B is used by developers in towns that have less than 10 percent affordable housing.
Newly elected selectmen Jon Witten has spent much of his career as an attorney involved with Chapter 40 B developments - either representing neighbors against this type of development or fighting the legislation itself. He said that under a Local Initiative Program, selectmen have the opportunity to negotiate the best type of development for the town and he felt they should do just that. He did not think that 20 units in an already dense neighborhood was the best option. Witten said when he took Hamadeh's costs and did some calculations, he found that Hamadeh could build as few as eight units and still make a "reasonable" profit allowed under the law.
""I need to see that I'm wrong," Witten said of his analysis of the density versus cost information.
Witten wanted Hamadeh to create information on less dense developments showing all costs. He did not "feel comfortable" voting on the 20-unit plan without seeing other options. Witten felt the selectmen's endorsement was the leverage needed to make sure the development benefited the town and the neighborhood, and he did not believe that seeing only one plan was enough information.
"He should produce a range of pro formas," said Witten about the need for addition cost analysis documents. "Otherwise, we're acting arbitrarily."
While Hamadeh said he would look at other options, he said: "I believe this is the best plan for the land."
Hamadeh said that site development costs did not decrease that much with a less dense development. He had already brought down the density to 20 units after discussions with the Local Housing Partnership committee. He still had to invest "several hundreds of thousands of dollars" to re-build the access roads, Spruce Lane and Sanger Road.
"I know what it costs to build, I've been doing it for eleven years," said Hamadeh. "I don't think that with eight units I would ever break even. I guarantee I will lose money with six units."
Hamadeh said he was submitting his project under the Local Initiative Program because of his connection to the town - he is a life-long resident who's father was a selectman - but added that there was "no business reason" to do so, and it would have been easier for him to propose under the traditional Chapter 40B. He said the proposal benefits the town through his upgrades to the roads and water mains and because he is offering a higher percentage of affordable housing than he needs to. Another benefit is that he was giving preference to residents for the affordable units.
Attorney Jason Talerman represented approximately 200 neighbors. Like Witten, he is skilled in negotiating for neighborhoods during Chapter 40B proposals. He said that while the neighbors would love to see the land remain open space, they knew that was not an option. However, the proposed development was too dense in an already dense area.
"Twenty units starts to impact their quality of life and their safety," said Talerman.
Like Witten, he urged selectmen to gather more information about less dense developments for the location.
"This is a compromise process," said Talerman. "There has to be some more due diligence. Let's take it to the next step and let's see another analysis."
Neighbor Mike Fortunado of Indian Trail said the selectmen needed to consider the public benefit when deciding whether to endorse this L.I.P.
"There will be four to six units of affordable housing. That means four to six people benefit," Fortunado said. "We've got 200 people in our organization who are not going to be benefiting. Can we compromise somewhere?"
Chairman of the Local Housing Partnership Diane Bartlett praised Hamadeh for his effort to work with the town and provide needed affordable housing. She wanted selectmen to support West Bay Landing.
"He's been very faithful to our committee," Bartlett said. "He has responded favorably to everything we've asked for. We need affordable housing and with affordable housing comes density. We need to be respectful of his efforts to communicate."
Bartlett noted that recently in Norwell a Chapter 40B project put 44 units on nine acres.
Bartlett also pointed out that this project would also provide smaller homes for seniors wishing downsize or younger people just starting out. The project calls for two and three bedroom condos attached in one unit. The market price of a three-bedroom unit would be $529,000 and a two-bedroom would sell for $449,000, according to documents provided by Hamadeh. The approximate affordable price of a three-bedroom would be $188,000 and a two-bedroom would sell for $180,000.
Selectman Andre Martecchini indicated he was ready to vote on the project but agreed continue the discussion until May 14. Hamadeh first presented his plans to selectmen on February 26.