Island Creek close to a deal

Written by Administrator
 | Tuesday, 29 September 2009 21:30

It’s been a year since developer John Keith first presented a plan to expand the existing Island Creek Village. After many revisions and back-and-forth discussions between the development team and the Zoning Board of Appeals, the two sides seemed much closer to an agreement after meeting on Thursday night.

“I think we’re ending on a very happy note,” said ZBA Chairman Dennis Murphy as the meeting adjourned.

However, the meeting did not begin with such an optimistic tone. The two sides had differences over a number of issues, including the height of the rental apartment buildings and the economic feasibility of the project as a whole. The development team, led by consultant Ed Marchant, had maintained that some of the changes demanded by the town had made the project known as Island Creek North no longer “economically viable.”

The term is something of a magic bullet when it comes to 40B projects, because the state standards say a developer may always choose to proceed with a development that appears to be uneconomic if the subsidizing agency feels the developer has the resources to complete the project.

A peer review consultant hired by the town to review the project’s finances, Richard Heaton, met with some fierce criticism from Marchant.

“I think it’s fair to say we strongly disagree with almost everything in [Richard Heaton’s] report,” he said. “I didn’t see very much balance in this report.”

Marchant said the developers have tried to be cooperative throughout the process, eliminating 70 percent of the planned commercial space, changing building heights and preserving the affordability of existing units.

“We’ve tried to be cooperative throughout this process” he said.

Before the two sides got deep into an argument, however, Marchant said his team had an alternative plan that would satisfy many of the board’s concerns.

Architect Andrew Zaleski presented a revised plan that reduced the height of the apartment buildings from four stories to three.

Also, all the project’s for-sale condos would be converted to rental. This is important, Marchant said, because instead of 190 of the project’s units qualifying as affordable, all 238 would count. If the project is accepted, Duxbury would have 8.03 percent affordable housing (the goal of the 40B law is 10 percent.)

To make up for the lost income of the condo, the developer will add four three bedroom townhouses, and will take the unusual step of adding a floor to two of the existing elderly housing buildings, as well as elevators.

“This is where the creative side of things comes in,” said Marchant. “That would provide some transition to the three story buildings.”

The board, as well as members of the audience from the town’s affordable housing committee, reacted to the revised plans positively.

“I think it’s a positive development,” said ZBA member Michael Gill.

“I think this is a tremendous improvement and benefits our town,” said Dianne Bartlett of the Affordable Housing Trust.

ZBA Chairman Dennis Murphy asked if there was any possibility rental units in the project could be put up for sale.

“Once they’re rental they tend to stay rental,” said Marchant.

The town’s review engineer Tom Houston said he would need to review the plan in detail, only seeing it for the first time on Thursday, but said he didn’t see any major problems.

“Nothing on this site plan jumps out as being objectionable or being unreasonable,” Houston said.

Heaton also said there is no reason to re-review the project’s economic status, since there is no longer a disagreement between the developer and the ZBA.

The public hearing was continued until Nov. 12.