By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Just weeks after a Proposition 2-1/2 override was successfully passed, in part because of proponents” arguments that the town's schools are overcrowded, a developer has proposed building a new complex that could potentially add another 74-82 school children to the district.
Representatives from Capital Group Properties, based in Southborough, met with the Board of Selectmen June 24 to discuss a proposal for a 160-unit affordable housing complex that would be located at the intersection of Walnut Street and Route 9.
William Depietri, the company's president, presented to the board several conceptual drawings of a development that would be built under Chapter 40B of the state's housing laws.
Chapter 40B is a state statute, which enables local zoning boards of appeals (ZBA) to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules if at least 20 to 25 percent of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. Under 40B, a builder can have waived most or all local zoning and building density laws if the builder uses the development to work toward the state's goal of 10 percent affordable housing. The town's ZBA is the arbiter on whether a building permit will be issued. Rejected 40B builders can appeal to the state Housing Court.
Selectman John Lebeaux recused himself from the meeting while the remaining four selectmen discussed the project. Capital Group Properties is proposing a total of 160 apartments, of which would be a mix of one, two, and three bedrooms, in four separate buildings in the complex. Each building would be four stories high and both entrances and exits to the complex would be from Walnut Street. There would be 286 open parking places, plus another 32 in garages built under the residential buildings. A club house would be part of the development. While water would be supplied by the town, sewage removal would have to be provided by a private system. It is estimated that daily car traffic to and from the development would account for 1,020 trips per day.
Selectman James Kane asked how the development would proceed since the property straddles residential and commercially zoned land. He then stated that he was very disappointed that this proposal would add so much additional commercial property activity to an area in town which has of late seen so much other proposed building and commercial usage.
Selectman Henry Fitzgerald asked what plans might be in the works for business/retail activity at the development since it would be largely in a commercial zone. Depietri replied that they had not yet given much thought to such possible retail activity.
Kristen D. Las, Shrewsbury's principal planner/economic development coordinator, noted that this project would not help the town in reaching the state-mandated 10 percent affordable housing quota. She added that the site is also not zoned for residential apartments.
Las estimated that this development would add an additional 74 to 82 children to the elementary school population, a number which Fitzgerald stated would be very hard to absorb when the issue of school overcrowding is still on everyone's mind after the recent Proposition 2- ? override vote. Kane noted that the location in question might be better suited for use other than the construction of another 40B development.
The applicant must first need to approach the state for a Letter of Eligibility and then appear before the town ZBA to request a building permit.