The article appended below is a summary of the Zoning Board of Appeals first meeting to review the Goodridge Brook Estates
project. The current configuration of 136 apartments and 64 single-family homes was proposed by the builder at this meeting.
As of 5/4/18, however, the bedroom count was still at 451. It rose to 516 bedrooms in the plan submitted to the ZBA in July.
The discussion provides some cost estimates for anticipated apartment rents as well as single-family home prices. It also
includes information regarding bedroom counts for apartment and home plans at that time.
Residents Turn Out to Oppose 200-unit Lancaster Project
By Ken Cleveland Item Correspondent
Posted May 4, 2018 at 3:01 AM
LANCASTER – A proposed development off Sterling Road morphed a little Thursday night, the first of what will be many hearings and meetings the Board of Appeals will hold on a potential 200-unit, 451-bedroom project split between apartments and single-family homes.
The Goodridge Brook Estates project will go through many studies and discussions before a final decision and design, but last week’s initial public hearing drew enough residents that they could not all fit in Lancaster Town Hall’s auditorium, with standing room and overflow.
“It goes on for months,” ZBA member Sarah Gulliver said of 40B process, with “many, many meetings.”
The board voted to meet on May 24 to continue the hearing and discussions on the project. That meeting will be held at the Mary Rowlandson School auditorium to accommodate the expected crowd.
The project’s initial plan for 120 apartments and 80 townhouse units was presented, with an alternative for the ZBA members to consider: 136 apartments and 64 single-family homes.
As board members sought to get more information, perhaps having the board’s consultant review the options, developer Iqbal Ali, of Crescent Builders Inc., opted to go with the single- family version in order to get the design process started.
Dean Harrison, Ali’s 40B project manager, said the plan was to start work on planning and design the next day, once they knew the direction the board preferred. After board member Robert Baylis said “we don’t have enough information on either plan to decide,” Ali, who had not spoken at the hearing, got up and talked to Harrison, who then told the board they had decided to present the single-family plan.
That could all change, from the numbers to layout, as the comprehensive permit process involved in a 40B project moves forward.
The board’s attorney, Adam Costa, explained the process gives the board less opportunity to deny or excessively modify a project since it proceeds with the state’s presumption that more affordable housing is needed.
The process puts the Board of Appeals in the role of many of the town boards that would normally approve a development, but limits the board’s ability to deny or substantially modify a 40B project.
What is affordable drew some reactions from the audience. An affordable apartment for one person would cost $1,348 a month, including utilities, with rents based on the eastern Worcester region; the homes would run about $279,000.
Criteria to be considered for the 25 percent that would be affordable include income of $57,550 for a two-person family.
“This is not subsidized housing,” Harrison said. “If they can’t afford the rent, they’re not allowed to live there.”
The idea, Harrison said, is for people to be able to afford paying 30 percent of their money for housing.
Many residents, as well as the board, focused on traffic impacts in an area some complained already had issues, and environmental concerns. Residents also had concerns about utilities impact on existing homes, noting low water pressure issues and a question was raised about the capacity of the sewer system the development would rely on.
The number of school-age children could impact local schools, with Nashoba Regional School Committee member Kathy Codianne noting the district did not have information from the project when a space-needs study determined the high school needed more space.
The total number of bedrooms in the 45-acre development, while it could change over the six-month permitting stage, had people concerned.
But, Crescent Builders’ attorney stressed that the impact on schools could not be considered by the board, hinting it would be viewed by the courts as a fair housing claim.
Meeting percentage goal
The 16 affordable houses and 136 apartments, all of which can be counted, would bring Lancaster from 5.5 percent of the 10 percent goal of affordable housing, to over 11 percent, according to numbers reviewed by the town Community Development and Planning Department. That could allow the town to meet the state goal and not be forced to accept 40B projects in the future.
The project as proposed at this point would include a 20-acre portion with the apartments off Sterling Road and another 26 acres with the single-family homes, four of which could have frontage on Sterling Road.
The wetlands and wooded areas would be unused, although plans call for a utility line to be brought across the wetlands.
The project proposes 259 bedrooms in the 136 units of rental housing with the 64, three-bedroom homes yielding 192 bedrooms.
On the rental side, there would be 27 one-bedroom, 95 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom apartments.
The plan has 48 market and 16 affordable three-bedroom single-family homes, with affordable prices of about $279,000.
Harrison said one consideration is there is more demand for single-family housing.
Ali’s 96-unit rental project in West Boylston’s Oakdale section is nearing completion. It was a project he took on from an initial development project that had not been built. Crescent Builders expanded the project under the 40B process, with residents suing to try to stop the project. The project had originally been approved in 2004 with 68 units before Ali purchased it from the bank that held title.
Likewise, the Lancaster project site was originally approved as Fieldcrest Estates, an 84-unit 40B development project, in 2006, but permits for that project had lapsed over the years.
The Goodridge project is adjacent to the 32-unit 40B Jones Crossing Development that Tyrone Jones, of Sterling, is building.
Jones sought board approval last week to add garages to the units, noting the garages were within the permit, but would lessen side setbacks. Board members had concerns about access for emergency equipment on the narrow lots and directed Jones to meet with town officials, including the fire department, on the issue.
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