By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – A filled meeting room met the Grafton Board of Selectmen at their June 21 meeting, generated by the board’s continued discussion about the proposed 40B development called Prentice Place LLC. The proponent and developer, Sotir Papalilo, had originally scheduled the hearing to get a letter of support from the selectmen.
Grafton Town Planner Joseph Laydon and Dan Crossin, chair of the Affordable Housing Trust, tried to answer some of the many concerns expressed.
Prentice Place would be a 54-unit apartment complex and one of almost a dozen affordable housing developments in Grafton and is involved with the Local Initiative Program (LIP). Papalilo was asked by the board if he would consider downsizing the project, to perhaps 36 units. He replied that adequate profitability for the financiers rested on a 54-unit project.
Responding to a question from Chair Jennifer Thomas, Town Administrator Timothy McInerney said that the town has other large apartment complexes, but they had been built back in the 1970s. McInerney added that the town had been considering the Prentice Place project for just two weeks and that voters may not be familiar with the plan.
Papalilo then talked about financing, reiterating that he wanted to ensure everyone was happy with his plan. He added that the proposed three-story apartment building need not overwhelm the neighborhood as site grading would make it appear from Route 140 to be only two stories high.
“I don’t want to have to go to the Housing Appeals Committee if I can’t get a 40B permit through the ZBA [Zoning Board of Appeals],” he said. “If I have a letter of approval from the BOS [Board of Selectmen] that would make my application more acceptable.”
Selectman Craig Dauphinais argued that the project was just too big for the planned site in part because of the number of cars involved – at least 100 – and the attendant parking space and road work. He suggested building four single-family homes or two condominiums instead.
Papalilo countered that he has “a successful background in building 40B projects in such lots” and that he could consider a 12-unit plan but that 54 units would add more affordable units toward the town’s state-mandated quota.
The residents present – mostly from the neighborhood where the project will be built – were uniformly against the project because of congestion, traffic, school crowding, added tax burdens, and neighborhood degradation.
To each complaint and demands that the selectmen obey the wishes of the voters, the board again and again replied that 40B placement was basically out of their hands as the Housing Appeals Committee almost universally overruled towns and allowed 40Bs to be built just about anywhere as long as the town had not reached the state-imposed mandate of 10 percent affordable units.