The article excerpts appended below summarize the previous week's Lancaster Board of Appeals discussion pertaining to the
Goodridge Brook Estates 40B project. It was copied from the telegram.com web site.
Some of the items discussed:
-- Resetting the Board of Appeals 180-day review timeline.
-- Increasing the size of the project to 516 bedrooms.
-- Lack of public input during the town's initial 30-day period to reply to MA Housing (notification letter).
-- Tax implications of earlier Chapter 61A status for David Kilbourn's property.
-- Status of Water and Sewer studies.
-- Status of Traffic study.
Affordable Housing Project Clock Reset
By Ken Cleveland Item Correspondent
Posted Aug 3, 2018 at 3:01 AM
LANCASTER — Over the past three months, it may have seemed like Iqbal Ali was running down the shot clock.
Last week, he reset the 180-day timeline, giving the Lancaster Board of Appeals time to have the Goodridge Brook Estates plans analyzed and review the comprehensive permit for affordable housing Ali is seeking.
Some of the numbers have also changed. Plans now call for the project — 136 apartments and 64 single family homes — to have a total of 516 bedrooms on the 45-acre Sterling Road site.
Ali’s Crescent Builders will give a complete presentation of the plans, formally submitted July 24, according to Dean Harrison, the project manager, at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 23.
In asking the board to acknowledge the developer had provided information for peer review, Harrison said, “so the clock of 180 days will begin.”
Board attorney Adam Costa sought to clarify for the record that the developer was starting the 180-day clock effective July 26. The state gives boards of appeal 180 days from the time of a project being submitted to review and vote on it, under the 40B (affordable housing) statute.
One of the issues had been that if the timeline started with the March submission or the board’s first meeting April 26, the board was already halfway through its allowed time, while the builder had not yet submitted complete plans that could be reviewed.
Harrison also said the presentation at the next meeting would allow the developer’s engineers to talk with board engineers in the interim and the developer to have traffic engineers at the next meeting.
“The clock starts ticking tonight for 180 days,” Harrison clarified last Thursday.
He also clarified the increased bedroom count from 451 to 516: 32 one-bedroom apartments; 84 two-bedroom apartments; 20 three-bedroom apartments; and 64 single-family homes with four bedrooms each.
In response to a resident’s questions, Costa clarified the 180 days would be followed by 40 days in which the board could deliberate and finally file a decision, which would have a 20-day appeal period.
Residents lined up to comment and ask questions for more than an hour, ranging from what they saw as insufficient parking to questioning the process.
With 1.32 spaces per unit, several questioned how that would work since multiple car families are the norm and parking would crowd roads that are already narrow.
Questions arose about the eligibility letter that allowed the developer to start the 40B process and a selectmen’s letter acknowledging the proposal.
Residents questioned the state letter’s use of “public” input and the perceived lack of public input during the 30-day response period the town had, a time when town officials and departments submitted thoughts on the project.
Costa detailed the process and the way the eligibility letter is generated by the state agency, adding it appeared the letter was “valid on its face,” meaning there was no legal reason to think it was not valid.
He also advised that the board should not delay acting just because it has been brought up that the letter could be invalid; if the board took no action, the project could be deemed approved without any conditions the board might put into place.
Costa also said a potential conflict of interest that was raised, in which Sewer Commissioner David Kilbourn has a conflict as owner of the property, was not an issue of the Board of Appeals. Kilbourn has recused himself from any discussions of the Sterling Road project at the commission.
Another issue raised was if the land had been in tax protection status in which a tax reduction is allowed for not developing property, such as Chapter 61A, which exempts farm land from paying full tax bills.
Typically in such cases, when it is sold and removed from tax protection, back taxes are paid and the town has a right of first refusal, being allowed to match a valid purchase offer.
In this case, no one at the meeting had confirmed details.
However, assessors’ records indicate the property previously was in Chapter 61A status, but was removed. Since it was kept in the same use for at least a year, not being used differently or sold, the town had no first refusal rights, according to state regulations.
A rollback assessment may be required if the land does not remain in the same use for five years. The land was removed in 2013, records indicate, so 2018 would make the cutoff for repayment of taxes that were reduced through the Chapter 61A program.
Water and sewer studies are under way, with the sewer commission receiving updated plans the night before last Thursday’s BOA meeting. The sewer commission’s engineers, Weston and Sampson, are reviewing details to determine sewer capacity issues and requirements such as removing three times the usage in “infiltration.”
Residents questioned the dates of the traffic study, with the inference that the study may have used low-use days such as weekends, but Harrison said, “there are certain guidelines” and the study was public.
The study shows it was conducted Wednesday, April 11, 2018, with a 48‐hour vehicle count on Sterling Road conducted on April 10 to 11, 2018.
The board’s town website includes many documents and plans related to the project as well as letters.
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