On Wednesday, the town was given information on Brewster Commons, a 52-unit development located on 13.9 acres of land off Woodridge and Bay Farm Roads, by project manager Arthur J. Duffy. Last August, the application for the project received site approval by MassHousing.
In January, the town got word from MassHousing on the Merry Village 40B, which seeks to build 24-units of age-restricted housing in town. That application is expected to arrive in town officially in the next several weeks.
According to information submitted to the town, Brewster Commons will contain 20 buildings with townhouses, flats and attached single-family housing. Two existing single-family homes on the property will also be renovated. This housing will be age-restricted to residents over the age of 55 with 13 of the units earmarked as “affordable,” projected to sell at $165,000 each, and the remaining 39 units to be sold at a market rate of between $444,000-$579,000.
Duffy is serving as contractor, builder and consultant on the project for applicant John Walsh, the president of Brewster Commons LLC. Duffy and Walsh previously collaborated on the Bay Farm Condominium complex in Duxbury and have also worked together on housing units in Halifax and Hanson.
On Wednesday, Duffy said that the project is a good fit because it meets the needs of the aging population in town and that based on his experience with the Bay Farm complex, this kind of housing has been well-received.
“The market has been more and more accepting of the location, the concept and come to us looking for an upscale product,” he said. “A great many [older adults] are selling reasonably expensive homes and ëscaling down,’ so to speak. In some cases, they are buying units that are as big or bigger than their original home, but are configured differently such as having fewer bedrooms and more open space.”
Along the South Shore, said Duffy, builders are creating a variety of housing options for adults over the age of 55 and with Brewster Commons, Duxbury residents can find an attractive option to stay in town.
“They are looking for an acceptable address and a nice product and I feel we’ve offered that,” he said.
The proposal for Brewster Commons was filed under the state’s 40B “anti-snob” zoning act, which allows developers to bypass most town zoning regulations. Duffy said that unlike similar projects he’s read about in Duxbury and other towns, his proposal has a big difference.
“The problem with most of the 40Bs proposed [in this area] is that they are using property in an area where there are wetlands and/or aquifer district [issues] which gives [approval] boards the ability to be critical,” he said. “Our site has no wetlands, is not in an aquifer district and doesn’t argue with the abutting use [of Bay Farm Condominiums] ñit’s the same at least on one side. I think ours is an easier sell.”
Duffy added that he is hopeful that town boards and citizens will “latch onto” the proposal as something needed in town and forsees a swifter approval process than other projects.
Duffy also acknowledges that while 40B is a way around local zoning regulations, it is the only way he knows to accomplish the state’s mandates for affordable housing.
“The market is such that the price of land, combined with local zoning compliance makes it prohibitively expensive to produce housing,” he said. “40B does have a bad connotation in some people’s minds, but some towns have used it effectively to create affordable housing.”
He added that part of the negative point of view regarding 40B housing is what he believes is a misconception that it is subsidized housing and will “have a detrimental effect to abutting properties or properties in town.”
“A big part of the education on 40B is that it is affordable housing, not subsidized housing,” said Duffy. “Affordable means that it can be purchased by someone making 80 percent of the mean income of the area, which here is about $64,000. By some other town standards, that would be ëhigh income.’”
The application for Brewster Commons now brings the number of active 40B projects before the town to three. The Zoning Board of Appeals is currently holding public hearings on both the Duxbury Farms and Duxbury Crossing projects.
The first meeting on Brewster Commons is scheduled for February 26 at 7:30 p.m.