March 28 2016

Selectmen Choose to Support One of the Two Proposed Friendly 40B Projects

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen decided to support one of the two proposed “Friendly 40B” project during Monday night’s meeting. 


One of the proposed projects is a 200-unit complex in The District, formerly known as New England Executive Park. The second is a 271-unit complex in Burlington Corporate Center. Both projects would have 25 percent affordable housing, meaning that all the units would apply to the town’s total affordable housing percentage. 


That percentage is important and the driving factor behind why the town is considering 40B projects. Under Massachusetts law, a town must have at least10 percent affordable housing in order to meet the 40B requirement. If a town falls below 10 percent, it loses a lot of the power it has if a developer comes in and wants to build an affordable housing project. The biggest concern raised at the meeting is that the town could lose a lot of the control it has as to where an affordable housing project might be built. 


Currently Burlington has 10.4 percent affordable housing though there is a fear the number will drop when the amount is re-evaluated during the 2020 Census. 


On Monday the board voted 5-0-0 to support the project in Burlington Corporate Center. 


This decision was the recommendation of the subcommittee, made up of selectmen Chair Mike Runyan and selectman Dan Grattan, who looked at both projects in the past couple of weeks to see which they believed best met the needs of the town. 


One factor was time. After a project is given the go-ahead by the Board of Selectmen it must then be approved by the state before going to the Zoning Board of Appeals for final approval. Then it must be constructed and the goal of the board is to have all this done before the 2020 census. 


To that end Grattan said he supported the Burlington Center because they are further along in the process than The District. They have more thorough plans and have already prepared the application to the state. 


“They are very similar,” he said of the two projects. “At the end of the day I’d say one of the biggest distinctions is that the Burlington Center is further ahead. They started earlier and therefor are more likely to succeed.”


He said another reason is that the PDD for the Burlington Center already allows residential housing whereas The District’s does not. This does not technically factor in with a 40B project but he said this choice does more closely match the intent of Town Meeting. 


There was some discussion as to whether the board could approve both projects. However, since the board had generally decided it wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 units, it was decided to choose one. There was acknowledgement at a previous meeting that neither proponent would move ahead if allowed only 100 units. 


The vote the board made was to give support to the Burlington Center project and to start working out details with The Davis Companies, the owner of the property, with conditions from the town. This might include lessening the number of proposed units. There will be a second vote after that process to allow the developer to begin filing with the state. 

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