SHREWSBURY – Plans for a nearly 200-unit senior housing development near the intersection of Route 20 and South Street in Shrewsbury may soon come before the Zoning Board of Appeals following a Board of Selectmen vote on Tuesday.
The selectmen unanimously approved a development agreement with the developers, Greystar Development East LLC, during the meeting.
Though its location has drawn some concerns from the selectmen, the project would improve Shrewsbury’s proportion of affordable housing units. That, officials say, could insulate the town against other developers seeking to utilize the state affordable housing law, known as 40B, that allows them to overrule local zoning.
Tuesday’s vote came after Greystar staff members in November presented their project to the Board of Selectmen. They were presenting partly to see if the town was interested in pursuing what is called a Local Initiative Program (LIP) application with the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
“While it wouldn’t be our first choice to have housing on that parcel of land, we do recognize the benefits of entering into a LIP agreement and signing off on this and moving forward in the process because it does give us…some control and a seat at the table to have these back and forth discussions,” Selectman Beth Casavant said on Tuesday.
Casavant noted that Shrewsbury hasn’t met an affordable housing threshold of 10% of its total stock. That leaves the town open to 40B projects.
“This one may be a little more desirable or palatable to people because it is an over 55,” Casavant said. “However, we still have our hands tied in a lot of ways around this being located in Shrewsbury.”
Casavant said she would support the agreement “knowing it’s in the best interest of the town.”
“Because either way, this project is happening,” Casavant said. “I’d rather have a seat at the table than not.”
Assistant Town Manager Kristen Las said on Tuesday this is known as a “friendly” 40B project.
The project would be developed at 409 South St. The site is just under 15 acres near the intersection of Route 20 and South Street.
Greystar is interested in constructing 196 units, which would be restricted to active adults ages 55 and older. Of those 196 units, 147 would be market rate and 49 would be affordable.
The selectmen voted to cosign the LIP application in January.
“As part of that LIP agreement, before we agreed to cosign that application, the Board of Selectmen was very clear that they intended to enter into a development agreement with Greystar in order for us to have a little bit more control over the application and to guide the process in that component,” Las said Tuesday.
Greystar received approval for the LIP from DHCD in April.
Las, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar and other town staff, meanwhile, have also been working on negotiating the development agreement with Greystar.
Las presented the details of the development agreement to the selectmen on Tuesday, including upgrades to the town’s Walnut Street pump station and other sewer improvements.
In the agreement, which was shared with the Community Advocate following this meeting, the town acknowledged that the municipal sewer system currently doesn’t have capacity to handle the amount of sewer flow that is anticipated to be generated by the project.
Shrewsbury is studying the sewer system in the area to determine necessary repairs, upgrades and other improvements.
“When the system improvements are completed, the pump stations will have the capacity to handle the sewage flow generated by the project,” the agreement read.
The agreement further noted that the town will work to complete improvements so that the system will be operational and able to be connected to receive and transmit sewage from the project no later than Dec. 31, 2024.
The agreement said the developer agreed to pay its pro rata share of costs associated with the improvements.
The amount of this share will be deducted from and will serve as a cap on the amount of the sewer connection fees.
Nearby dog daycare
Speaking this week, Selectman Theresa Flynn noted that Dottie Jean’s Pet Resort and Daycare Center is located near the project’s site.
“Not so much the disruption to [Dottie Jean’s] but putting residential units right next to it and the inevitable complaints from residents, I would really like to see this developer make sure that they’re aware and they accommodate their residents recognizing that that business is right there,” she said.
Las said the developer intended to move forward with the permitting process with the Zoning Board of Appeals, which may be the proper time to provide input on instances like this.
Chair Moe DePalo asked for a letter from Greystar acknowledging that the daycare is there.
Speaking with the Community Advocate on Wednesday, Las said development agreement now clears the way for Greystar to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a comprehensive permit.
She estimated that this matter may appear before the board in August.