The article appended below summarizes some of the highlights from the 8/27/18 Lancaster Board of Selectmen
meeting. Supported by comments from other residents, Vitoria made a presentation on the importance of an
effective response to Mass Housing as well as having a current housing plan when faced with notification of a
Chapter 40B affordable housing project.
The excerpt covers discussion of the following requests:
-- To rescind the original 12/12/17 BOS reply to MA Housing regarding GBE project notification.
-- To provide 30-day comment period per Chapter 40B regulations.
-- To re-send Lancaster reply to MA Housing with input from town departments, boards, and residents.
-- To update Lancaster's 2013 Housing Plan.
Lancaster Selectmen Rescind Vote on Affordable Housing Project
BySara Arnold ITEM CORRESPONDENT
Posted Aug 31, 2018 at 3:00 AM
Updated Aug 31, 2018 at 10:56 AM
LANCASTER — It may not change anything, but residents who are part of the Stop the Behemoth group, fighting the Goodridge Brook Estates affordable housing development on Sterling Road, got what they asked for Monday night when selectmen agreed to rescind a previous letter to the state and gather public comments.
Approximately 50 Lancaster residents filled the seats of Town Hall auditorium.
There has been significant controversy about a letter sent Dec. 12, 2017, from Stan Starr, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, responding to notification that MassHousing received a 40B (the state affordable housing designation) application for Lancaster.
The letter, drafted by Planning Director Noreen Piazza, was “perfunctory,” according to Starr. He said it was “inaccurate, misleading, and just plain wrong” that he or any of the other selectmen support the project or have given any opinion. As Lancaster residents, he said, they are “all in this together.”
One of the primary issues for Victoria Marquis Petracca, leader of Stop the Behemoth, was getting the letter rescinded, primarily due to a lack of a 30-day public comment period allowed in the 40B regulations before letter submission. She wanted a new letter following that comment period, allowing for input from town residents, departments and other boards, in an attempt to get MassHousing to rescind its eligibility approval, given in March.
“Residents just want public comments recorded,” Petracca said.
Town Counsel Adam Costa said the eligibility approval has never been rescinded “as a consequence of anything a town has said or done,” but he’s “not saying it couldn’t happen.” He said the new letter would “go on record,” but likely result in no change. Costa said the reality was that the town could “proceed exactly how (the residents’ group) was requesting and (MassHousing) rubber stamps what’s already been done.” The Zoning Board of Appeals process would also keep going forward at the same time.
With a 2-1 vote (Selectman Walter Sendrowski dissented), selectmen rescinded the December 2017 letter. The vote to open a public comment period was unanimous.
The public comment period will take place through Friday, Sept. 28. Requests for comment will be posted on the town website, and responses can be sent by email, faxed or delivered in person.
Petracca said she also wants to stop the Goodridge project before the comprehensive permit is granted by implementing a Housing Protection Plan (HPP). But with the other project already in the Board of Appeals process, it might be too late.
The HPP could potentially allow the town to obtain “safe harbor status” if certain conditions were met by creating its own affordable housing plan. The town would have to choose affordable housing site locations and find developers to work on them. This could prevent the Goodridge project from continuing and give the town control over any other 40B development, Petracca said.
A previous HPP from November 2013 was never completed. According to Petracca, the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) wants to help update it and “get it over the finish line,” and town residents have volunteered to work with MRPC on Lancaster’s new HPP.
It may be too late for an HPP, in the ongoing approval process of a 40B development that would put Lancaster at 11 percent affordable housing, over the 10 percent quota required by the state that would allow the town to control affordable housing.
But Petracca said she wants the Board of Selectmen to “negotiate” with MassHousing and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to get the HPP.
“Not everything is subject to negotiation,” Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco said. “Just because we want to negotiate doesn’t mean (MassHousing and DHCD) are going to.”
Pacheco said he will let MassHousing and DHCD know the town intends to update and submit the HPP within 60 days, and will try to negotiate, pending guidance from legal counsel.
“We’ll do the best we can,” he said.
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Last edited by StopThe40B on Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: To refine the first paragraph
Reason: To refine the first paragraph