By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Longtime town resident and past town government member Peter Adams presented his proposal for a 40B affordable housing development project at the July 12 meeting of the Grafton Board of Selectmen. He was accompanied by a representative of the builder and an engineering consultant.
Chair Jennifer Thomas began the presentation by noting that this was just a forum for comments, the first step in the process.
The project would cover approximately 18 acres at 21 Wheeler Road, which the Adams family had purchased in the past to abut family property. The property is landlocked, he continued, which would require a permit for creating a 500-foot-long dead end street with little frontage. It borders a Land Trust lot. He continued that after having been on the market for the past eight years, a 40B development there is his next option.
The first issue of the project is the density of the proposed 36 house lots, with 25 percent affordable as defined by Chapter 40B. Most lots would have 80- to 100-foot frontage, similar, he said, to lots near Airport Road and Meadow Lane.
Jeff Engler, the 40B consultant present, related what he called his good track record.
“People hear about a 40B and think it’s already under way. Not so,” he said. “It is a long process including many consultants.”
He noted that his firm has enjoyed a very productive relationship with the town.
“The original plan may not be what is finally built, but my client has strong ties to the community,” he continued.
He assured the board and voters present that although the 40B process is long, Mass Housing has already been presented with the plan in what is a 90-day process. After Mass. Housing gives its OK, the plan then goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which either rejects or approves of the construction plan.
Selectmen cited concerns about traffic, noting the very long dead end roadway.
“Topography also looks tough and frontage is very small,” said Selectman Craig Dauphinais.
Another complaint was that water would run down the proposed street, making even more of a gravel build-up at the Wheeler Road intersection.
Selectman Brook Padgett asked why 36 lots were necessary to which Adams replied that he wanted to make the development a town-friendly, single-family project and that a certain number of lots was required to mitigate costs. He said the lots will be between one-third and two-thirds of an acre, with prices in the low 500,000s. The build-out timetable will be five to six years.
“We will include in the ZBA proposal as much of the Mass. Housing feedback as we can,” Adams said.
The hearing was then opened to a packed public audience.
Attorney Mark Donahue, representing a number of neighbors to this proposed 40B, stated that right now the issue of project eligibility is in doubt. This project, he said, is not in line with community planning objectives or with Grafton’s housing production plan. The housing plan calls for production of 142 affordable units over five years, he said. Larger developments have fallen into two parts: a rental development plan and a smart-growth plan. This project, he continued, is incompatible with the 2007 Open Space Plan.
He encouraged those opposed to the plan to “get your thoughts to Mass. Housing as quickly as possible,” noting that if residents can convince Mass. Housing that this plan does not make sense, there is no application for this site.
Eight voters then spoke, with only one in favor of the project.
The meeting ended with Selectman Bruce Spinney surmising that there might be some middle ground on this project.
“I love conservation land,” he said. “People should be able to use their own land, but there needs to perhaps be a compromise.”