Bellingham Zoning Board Begins 40B Development Process
May 31, 2019 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Bellingham Town Planner Jim Kupfer
written by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer
At their May 2nd meeting, the Bellingham Zoning Board held their first public hearing for the proposed Burton Woods development, consisting of 28 detached condominium residences, of which 7 will be sold to income-eligible, first-time homebuyers in conjunction with Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) standards. Because the application was filed under the state’s 40B law, the project goes before the zoning board instead of the planning board.
“Typically, in any sort of housing development or subdivision it would be submitted to the planning board under Massachusetts General Law (MGL) 41, which guides subdivisions and those sorts of things,” Town Planner James Kupfer (right) said. “This [project] is under MGL 40B, which allows for significant variations from our local zoning bylaw, so it doesn’t necessarily have to meet every one of our local requirements.”
This means that the development won’t meet all of our local zoning guidelines, and it’s a situation that doesn’t happen often. Mr. Kupfer said it’s the first project of this nature that’s been in front of the board in a few years.
“The unique aspect of this is that it’s 28 units on about 10 acres of land, which is denser than we typically permit. And in addition, it’s single access and the single access is only through Franklin.” He anticipated quite a bit of discussion on the topic of access points, density and buffering to neighbors.
The project was represented by Chris Geromini, one of the owners, and Mark O’Hagan on behalf of Hidden Meadows II Realty Trust and owner Edward Gately. Mr. O’Hagan described the parcel as on the town line between Bellingham and Franklin, off Sunken Meadow Road, a private road off Pine Street. The development will abut Mohawk Path and Plymouth Road, and many residents came to the meeting to express concerns. The parcel itself is 9.6 acres, of which 2 1/2 acres are wetlands.
“We’ve proposed the project to be 28 detached condominiums,“ O’Hagan told the board. “The homes are individual structures, so they look and feel like single-family homes.” The homes as proposed are 3-bedroom, 1800 square foot units with hardwood floors and granite countertops. They include 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms and a one-car garage, with town water and sewer. Sidewalks will be on one side of the street and a residential post light at each unit. The proposed condo association would maintain the roadway, plowing and maintenance with fees of $75/$100 per month. “Our objective for the project was for it to be affordable in general,“ O’Hagan continued.
Market rate was assessed at about $420,000; the price of the affordable units is based on what the homeowners can afford, starting with the state’s set income levels and taking a number of things into account, such as taxes, interest rates, condo fees and insurance. “That is ultimately established by the state prior to going to construction,” O’Hagan explained.
One concern was the single-access point, located off Sunken Meadow Road, a private roadway in Franklin. O’Hagan presented the board with a letter from Bellingham Police saying that the situation is not uncommon and they had no concerns. “It’s a little irregular, but not unique within the town,” O’Hagan said. Deputy Fire Chief Mark Poirier was present at the meeting and told the board that the Fire Department had no concerns about response times to that location. Jim Kupfer recommended that the board request the applicant to provide more information from their attorneys stating that they have the right not just to access, but to access and develop the lot. In advance of the next meeting, O’Hagan promised to provide such documentation.
The site was presented with a hammerhead design on one side, which was a concern for the fire department. “The Bellingham Fire Department’s opinion on this is to remove the hammerhead and put in a cul-de-sac that’s conducive with the operations of the fire department,“ Deputy Chief Poirier told the board. He was concerned about meeting the turning radiuses of their largest vehicles. O’Hagan promised to go back and consider those comments.
While the market will drive the pace of construction, O’Hagan projects a time frame of about 2 years for the full project, with typical hours of construction dictated by town requirements.
“It sounds like the board’s general feeling is that we would like you to look into exploring a cul-de-sac at the hammerhead location, and also having it reviewed by the Fire Department and Conservation Commission,” zoning board Chairman Brian Wright summarized as he closed the meeting. Kupfer suggested hiring a peer review engineer paid by the applicant to provide a review of the calculations to confirm accuracy and also provide recommendations and guidance.
During the open session, resident William Bissonnette of Mohawk Path brought up concerns with the Franklin access point being a private roadway. He referenced a 2003 lawsuit against the Planning Board for a previous development and urged the board to have town counsel look at that judgment and contact the former Franklin town counsel regarding the lawsuit.
Other residents had concerns about snow removal, traffic, parking space, the clearing of wooded areas and removal of trees, and crowding issues given the density of the proposal. The zoning board is planning a site visit, and the next meeting will be held on June 6, at 7 p.m., at the Municipal Center. All documentation about the project is available online at the zoning board website, https://www.bellinghamma.org/zoning-board.