Officials: Town must fight East Wareham affordable housing project

By Matthew Bernat | Apr 10, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Selectman Patrick Tropeano has called on town officials to fight a 174-unit affordable housing complex proposed for East Wareham.

Despite state law heavily favoring affordable housing projects, Wareham officials said it’s time to fight a 174-unit complex proposed for East Wareham, no matter the cost.

“It’s not fair and it’s time to stop this, whatever it takes, it has to stop,” Selectman Patrick Tropeano said Tuesday. “It is going to bankrupt us.”

Residents and local officials are gearing up to oppose the apartment complex, slated for a 8.6-acre lot at 3102 Cranberry Highway. Unveiled last year by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners, the project, dubbed Woodland Cove, calls for constructing six, three- and four-story buildings.

Because Woodland Cove is being proposed under the state’s affordable-housing law, known as 40B, the odds appear to favor Dakota Partners.

Under 40B, local zoning regulations are relaxed for housing projects in towns where less than 10 percent of homes or apartments are considered affordable. In Wareham, 7.7 percent of residences are affordable under the state’s definition.

Developers are currently working through the permit process with the Zoning Board of Appeals. Officials likely can’t stop the project, but they may have some tools available to mitigate its impact on town services.

Tropeano said the cost of approval is too high. If 400 children move into the complex, he estimated it would cost the town an additional $4.8 million a year to educate them.

“Where are we going to come up with that money?” he asked.

Yet, Woodland Cove is facing push back from officials in the Onset Fire District. Due to the district’s designation as a separate legal entity from the town, officials there are hopeful the courts allow them to impose the same restrictions that a construction project not protected by 40B must follow.

Selectmen have already officially opposed the project. Many residents have expressed outrage and concern at a series of public hearings held earlier this year. Selectman Chair Alan Slavin said he spoke with the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash on Tuesday to express the town’s opposition.

Currently, the decision rests with the Zoning Board of Appeals. If the board accepts the application, the Onset Fire District is prepared to deny permits to tie into the water system. Following that, the developers and local officials could find themselves in court.

Comments (20)
Posted by: thkng60@yahoo.com | Apr 11, 2018 05:52

Hmmmmmm. 400 more kids- You better not close those schools yet.



Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 11, 2018 06:32

What are the numbers of housing  from surrounding towns compared to us? Is there a listing somewhere? Not sure if that would help or not, but it might help to compare them to us. There is always some kind of exception and that needs to be wareham.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2018 07:51

Will they be paying the $20,000 sewer betterments for each new unit?  There should be no workarounds on this. They pay or they don't get sewer. Its not fair to the rest of us out here that had to pay. We already have too many Loser Villas in Town and this future dump/slum needs to be stopped



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 11, 2018 08:15

Where's our Conservation Commission when we need them?  The average Joe can't build a playhouse in his backyard for his kids if ConCom won't let him.  Can't they survey that site with a fine tooth comb and find something?  All it takes is a vernal pool and maybe a family of turtles and that whole place will be deemed sacred ground!

 

Why don't we go on on hunt and gather endangered critters and plant them all over that place?  I'll be in charge.  Call me Noah.  We can make an ark and fill it with Blue Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Box Turtles, and some Piping Plovers.  Those Plovers have been known to stop the advancement of mankind plus they taste like chicken so its a win win...

 

I'm being ridiculous.  That's because this new Woods of Brandy Hill housing project is even more ridiculous.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2018 08:41

I can confirm that this area is habitat for the Indigo Chuepacabra and the Blonde Huldra



Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 11, 2018 09:25

I brought this up before and I'll do it again. I posted that our town needs to put in place a just how big buildings should be. Other towns have laws on what your building has to comply with. But all I got for my trouble was bs and oh we can't do that. I have also emailed the town planner on this. If you really want to stop this from happening again then the building bylaws need to be in place. And if there isn't a bylaw on how big a lot needs to be for how much building there should be that also.    I've seen towns turn into ugly postage stamps lots with god awful humongous bulging over the edge.



Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 11, 2018 09:27

Oops... That should read, god awful humongous buildings bulging over the edge.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 11, 2018 11:12

Potential to add 400 more students to Wareham Public Schools! And to think the school building committee that is currently working on a proposal for a new Minot Forest School that would combine both elementary schools into one...planned student capacity to be 1100 students.

 

As of January 2018, the combined population of the Minot Forest and Decas schools was said to be 983 students. That means that at a student capacity of 1100 the proposed new Minot Forest  School only has sufficient space planned to accommodate the combined current student population plus an additional 117 students.

 

If the construction of the currently proposed new Minot Forest School is approved by voters, there's a potential for the new school to be too small before construction is even completed. Then what? Fund an addition?



Posted by: Bpigeon | Apr 11, 2018 14:47

At a WCPF Commissioners meeting it was commented that if that 40B project were to come on line, the apartment complex at Rosebud, the Sewer plant would be very close to capacity. That would impact any new business or construction expansion in Wareham.



Posted by: warehamite | Apr 11, 2018 20:24

I thought it was near capacity after the Walmart?!?  How many times has it been "near capacity"?  When will we know for sure?

 



Posted by: warehamite | Apr 11, 2018 20:27

UPTOHERE: There are zoning rules and regs pertaining to lot coverage, but if you read the article again, it states "Under 40B, local zoning regulations are relaxed for housing projects in towns where less than 10 percent of homes or apartments are considered affordable."  I take that as rules don't apply!    I think even Conservation regs are relaxed too.



Posted by: bruce gannon | Apr 12, 2018 12:33

There is one very easy solution. Don't allow low income housing and accept less money from the state. Then figure out a way to make up for the budget short fall. By the way what if only 100 new students enter the system? Or maybe the builder wants to build 174 luxury family sized condos, not low income but market priced $350,000 luxury condos. Any difference in how you feel? You claim that when they regulations is the same as saying rules don't matter, well there is also a rule that says the town has to have 10% affordable housing but you seem ok with wanting to ignore that rule. There may be legitimate reasons for fighting the plan but you have to be ready to accept the consequences.

 



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 12, 2018 16:26

Bruce - a 174 luxury condo unit proposal would be required by law to comply with local zoning ordinances including density.  A 174 unit affordable 40B housing complex because of specifications within the 40B law, does not have to comply with local zoning ordinances including density.

 

For example The Village at  815 Main Street, an affordable housing complex was built on approximately 9 acres of land in an area where local zoning allows house lots of approximately one acre. Local zoning law would have allowed one housing unit per acre. The Village at 815 Main Street as a designated affordable housing development didn't have to comply with local zoning, and so instead it has 49 units on a nine acre parcel.



Posted by: WWareham resident | Apr 13, 2018 08:22

@Bruce, it seems that the only construction going on in Wareham is 40B or surprise solar fields. With all the trailer parks in town that absolutely should be counted as affordable housing, at what point do we meet the criteria and plug this influx of low/no income housing and the people who live in them? The Village is a mile from my home which BTW, still has not come back to close to the value of what we paid. When we bought our home I never expected to be surrounded by 40B housing, sober houses and wreckless land purchases "for conservation". This town is neck deep into a worm hole that we're never going to get out of. I'm going to come out and say it who did Dakota Partners pay off to even be at the table here? State funding be damned, an affordable housing complex of that scale will seriously push the limits of the towns resources and as Tropeano said  who's going to pay the $4.8 million cost to educate 400+ children? It's a very bad idea to continue down thus path, we are already the laughing stock of the Southcoast.



Posted by: OnsetTogether | Apr 13, 2018 11:52

20 "luxury condos" would be preferable, but who would pay to live in that ugly stretch? Did Wareham Fire and Water oppose the other developments? The cost of students would be shared with the state, maybe the Hammond School should be reopened as a neighborhood school?



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 13, 2018 13:23

I applaud the Selectman and others for their opposition, but in reality and law there is pretty much nothing they can do about it once the Developer claims 40B. I remember while being the liaison for Zoning, the board simply was asking for a site plan. The Developer refused. We appealed and it went to the State Housing Court or Board, they being appointed and friends with all the developers decided in his favor. Unfortunately 40B and its proponents has nothing to do with affordable housing, it has everything to do with greed and money. These developers know  that they have friends on the State Board that will support them so basically they will play with Town Governments, because in the end they will get what they want. In this case however, a District is getting involved in the fight, and I don't recall from my memory this happening before, so hopefully they can use a different set of tools to limit this development, they cant stop it, but they may be able to limit the damage a project this size would do to the District.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 13, 2018 13:33

Bruce, I know that internet post or any kind of emails, don't necessarily depict a persons real feeling on any particular subject. I doubt many of the folks here would refuse anyone that needs a hand up because they have fallen on difficult times and need some assistance. The reality is the Town of Wareham cannot fund the schools or other departments today because of the lack of funds. I don't know that I agree with Patrick's 400 number although he does not usually just spout out things without doing some research. Your suggestion as you know is not correct. the State does not give the Town the proper funding based on the current formula for the number of students we have today. So lets say Patrick is right, and they will be 400 new students, you know the State is not going to provide Wareham with the money to educate those 400 kids. So your thought may make some think. Until the formula is straightened out, and I hope that a new member of the School Committee and District will continue the fight that Mr Swett was pursuing, we will never get our fair share to educate a student. So if/when these 400 show up for classes the Town will be further in the red. And unfortunately that is the fact with today's formula.



Posted by: Kress | Apr 13, 2018 17:49

Isn't there a constitutional argument that can be made wherein the constitutional rights of Wareham's residents and of the Town itself, outweigh the state-enforced "need" for additional low-income housing?  It's a balancing act delineated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

For example, I would hope that the Equal Protection Clause would protect our rights as residents of Wareham as equally as it does for 40b developers and tenants.  How can Wareham be forced to accept 40b housing when such a development would impinge upon our right to an education, to police, fire, and ambulance services, to infrastructure maintenance, to clean drinkable water, to a clean and protected environment, etc.  There have to be minimum standards for the provision of these necessities of life.   Given our current budget, there is little doubt that Wareham has sunk to the bare minimum.  Any further assault, ie, this 40b Housing Project, will force us below an acceptable level.  How then can the rights of future 40b tenants outweigh the rights of Wareham's current residents?  Why does Wareham have to keep getting poorer and poorer?  Most Wareham residents just cannot afford the cost of an override. The State cannot force us to pass an override.

 

Certainly, on the local level, Wareham does not need additional affordable housing.  Our numerous trailer parks are evidence of that.  Mobile home parks are the epitome of affordability.  Furthermore, anyone needing affordable housing and qualifying for such can do so through Federal Section 8.  A prior court commented that rents and housing costs flucuate.  While that is true, the ubiquitous presence of affordable mobile homes in Wareham has and will remain constant.  In other words, there is no lack of affordable housing in Wareham now or in the future.  The number of affordable mobile homes in Wareham makes Wareham unique.  The courts should recognize this and rule against a new 40b project in Wareham.

 

We need our Town Attorney (or counsel for Onset Fire/Water) to fight this on a legal (Constitutional) basis and on the factual basis that is unique to Wareham.  Examine precedent cases to distinguish us from them both legally or factually.



Posted by: Kress | Apr 13, 2018 17:49

Isn't there a constitutional argument that can be made wherein the constitutional rights of Wareham's residents and of the Town itself, outweigh the state-enforced "need" for additional low-income housing?  It's a balancing act delineated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

For example, I would hope that the Equal Protection Clause would protect our rights as residents of Wareham as equally as it does for 40b developers and tenants.  How can Wareham be forced to accept 40b housing when such a development would impinge upon our right to an education, to police, fire, and ambulance services, to infrastructure maintenance, to clean drinkable water, to a clean and protected environment, etc.  There have to be minimum standards for the provision of these necessities of life.   Given our current budget, there is little doubt that Wareham has sunk to the bare minimum.  Any further assault, ie, this 40b Housing Project, will force us below an acceptable level.  How then can the rights of future 40b tenants outweigh the rights of Wareham's current residents?  Why does Wareham have to keep getting poorer and poorer?  Most Wareham residents just cannot afford the cost of an override. The State cannot force us to pass an override.

 

Certainly, on the local level, Wareham does not need additional affordable housing.  Our numerous trailer parks are evidence of that.  Mobile home parks are the epitome of affordability.  Furthermore, anyone needing affordable housing and qualifying for such can do so through Federal Section 8.  A prior court commented that rents and housing costs flucuate.  While that is true, the ubiquitous presence of affordable mobile homes in Wareham has and will remain constant.  In other words, there is no lack of affordable housing in Wareham now or in the future.  The number of affordable mobile homes in Wareham makes Wareham unique.  The courts should recognize this and rule against a new 40b project in Wareham.

 

We need our Town Attorney (or counsel for Onset Fire/Water) to fight this on a legal (Constitutional) basis and on the factual basis that is unique to Wareham.  Examine precedent cases to distinguish us from them either legally or factually.



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Apr 13, 2018 19:37

Kress - well written and all great points!  Many excellent points and great ideas are posted up in these WW comments.  Sure, some of us have our MO and like to rant& rave and goof around.  Some are very serious.  All together, there's a lot of good stuff presented in these comments.  Sometimes the comments get recognized (lately the paper ballots seem to be gaining momentum here). Many of these 40B comments are great. However, there's a lot of preaching to the choir.  Too bad the right people don't likely ever read these.Many need to come out from behind screen names  and bring their expertise to the right places.  Or at least post in the discussion section where more will see.



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