December 9 2015

Committee Holds Discussion on Two Proposed "Friendly 40B" Affordable Housing Projects

By: Rich Hosford

Two developers presented plans for “Friendly 40B” residential housing projects to the town’s Ad Hoc 40B Committee on Wednesday night. 


The committee, made up of participants from different boards and committees, including the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Housing Authority and Land Use and chaired by Town Assessor James Doherty, was charged with hearing proposals and making notes and recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. If the board decides to work out and accept a Friendly 40B proposal, it will take it to the Board of Appeals. 


The reason the selectmen are interested in hearing proposals for the residential projects is that 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. 

 

With “Friendly 40B” project the town works with developers before it drops below 10 percent to work out an agreement both sides are happy with.

 

The first proposed project discussed was from National Development for The District, the park formerly known as New England Executive Park. Senior Vice President and Director of Asset and Property Management Andrew Gallinaro told the committee his company hasn’t chosen a site or an exact number of units but that The District, which is currently undergoing major renovations, would be an ideal place for an affordable housing project. 

 

He said office workers could live in the development and walk to work and to local amenities such as shopping destinations and restaurants. He also said that because there is already parking the project would have a lower impact there than in many other places. Also, having the project be in the park would mean it’s not near an existing residential neighborhood and will have less of an impact on the traffic of current residents. 

 

When asked, Gallinaro said he thinks the target customer would be unmarried young working professionals without families. 

 

He also said he would bring more detailed plans for the next committee meeting. When asked he estimated they would include between 200 and 250 units with 25 percent of them being affordable under the state standards. Any 40B project with 25 percent affordable units means the town can claim all of the units in the project towards its percentage. 

 

The second project discussed was from the Davis Companies for its park Burlington Center on Corporate Drive.  Chris Chandor, Vice President of Development at the Davis Companies and attorney Robert Buckley of Riemer & Braunstein presented the project to the committee. 


They detailed a 271-unit project at the park that would also have 25 percent affordable housing. Some of the benefits of the location they outlined included tax revenue the town could collect on a currently vacant lot, the out-of-the-way location would mean minimal impact on the town and workers in the park could live there and walk to work. 


Chandor also said that the site currently is allowed by right to build 214,000 square feet in office space but would prefer to instead use that space for the residential building. He said that by going residential units will create far less traffic than if they build offices. 

Also, he said the target renters include both young professionals and seniors and that seniors would likely prefer the quiet atmosphere of Burlington Center to a busier location. 


Buckley said another factor is time. He explained the plans for this project have long been in the works and that construction could begin as soon as the town gave its approval. If everything went smoothly the project would be completed in late 2018, ensuring the town has more affordable housing before the 2020 census numbers are released. 


The committee took no vote and discussed having a second meeting in January. 

 
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