GRAFTON – A proposal to develop a piece of vacant land on Snow Road drew some sharp comments during the Select Board meeting on Oct. 24.
The developers, James and Steven Venincasa of SJ Investments LLC, came before the board to discuss the Local Initiative Program (LIP) agreement for 14 Snow Road, which will be a 40B project.
“The 40B [process] would be better for the town in the long run,” as opposed to a 40R, said Town Manager Evan Brassard. He said the 40B “would give us the full amount of units” toward the town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI). According to Brassard, the applicant will submit the LIP application to the state’s Executive Office for Housing and Livable Communities for approval and an eligibility letter.
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The project calls for a total of 268 units – 67 of which would be affordable. Chair Mathew Often said that because 25% of the proposed development is affordable, the entire project would count toward the SHI.
“That should get us a couple of years of safe harbor, and close to the 10 percent [affordable units],” said Often.
The proposed development at 14 Snow Road would include 44 townhouses and 224 multifamily units in four, three-story buildings.
There would be 201 market-rate units and 67 affordable units, all rentals. Most would be one- and two-bedroom units, with some three-bedroom units.
The development would be built on 13.3 acres on currently vacant land.
As part of the agreement, the developers will add a turning lane from Snow onto Worcester Street and build a sidewalk. They will also build a playground accessible to the public; permit public use of the walking trails to be built at the site; and donate $300,000 to the town.
Should all permits be granted, construction for the first phase could start in the fall of 2024, with occupancy in March 2026.
During the meeting, resident Bill McCusker asked why this proposal did not have affordable housing at the 50 and 60% level of area median income. Board member Ray Mead replied he wanted to have a project with “quality housing.”
Based on numbers from the state, on a project that could generate $8.2 million in revenue for the developers and included affordable housing at the 50 and 60% level, the developers would lose about $104,000, McCusker said.
Mead objected to having McCusker talk about these numbers, saying the town “negotiated in good faith” with the developers.
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When McCusker referred to a letter sent to the board in March about one of the developers getting arrested, Mead and the board cut him off. Steven Venincasa refuted the report about the arrest.
Resident Ed Prisby, who said he objected to how the board treated McCusker, also asked about the affordable housing numbers. Venincasa replied that the numbers mentioned by McCusker weren’t a true reflection of the costs involved in such a project.
In other comments by the Select Board, member Mark Alimo said he was concerned about traffic, especially around Snow Road. Venincasa replied that a traffic study was done, and he promised to upgrade the intersection. He added that with Stop & Shop and other amenities nearby, “some residents won’t need a car.”
The Select Board voted to sign the LIP application, 3-2, with members Mark Alimo and Anne Marie Foley voting against.
Projects’ progress report
The Snow Road project is one of several housing projects proposed in Grafton. According to the town’s Planning Department, the following projects, approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals, are either about to get under way or in progress:
- Fisherville Terrace – 72 units, 30 duplex units, 40 single-family units (18 affordable) – groundwork in early phases; no building permits issued yet. This is a 40B development.
- Adams Road Trust/High Point Estate (High Point Drive off Adams) – 72 single-family homes (18 affordable units); three houses left to build (two affordable, one market rate).
- “Prentice Place,” 23 Prentice St., North Grafton – 40 apartments (25 percent affordable). Building 1 completed and occupied, buildings 2 and 3 under construction.
The following projects are in the permitting phase:
- 59 Pleasant St. LLC – 104 rental units (32 one-bedroom, 60 two-bedroom, 12 three-bedroom). Application received on Feb. 27, 2023; public hearing closed on Oct. 25, 2023.
- Reserve at Miscoe Hills, 116 Upton St. – 152 rental units (26 affordable); 256 parking spaces; 5.5 acres to be donated for open space. Public hearings continued into November.