Archive 2008 - 2019

The Case for Cedar Ridge Estates

by Michael Norton


As of April 1, 2010, Holliston has one of the lower percentages (approximately 4.1%) of affordable housing in Massachusetts.  This is despite MA G.L. 40B (the “Comprehensive Permit Law”) having been enacted over forty years ago to resolve this chronic problem and promote at least 10% of affordable housing in every community.  As you may be aware, Green View Realty, LLC (“GVR”) proposed and MassHousing, the Housing Appeals Committee (“Committee”) and most recently the Land Court, have approved a two hundred (200) unit affordable housing development on a parcel of land located off Marshall and Prentice Streets in Holliston.  

When completed, the project will accomplish three main goals: 1) creation of sorely needed affordable housing in Holliston; 2) completed remediation of historic environmental contamination at the property; and 3) repayment of costs, in excess of one million dollars, incurred by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for past remedial activities and to assess environmental conditions caused not by GVR, but by a former owner, at the property.  Despite the hyperbole and misunderstanding of conditions surrounding the property and this project, the property should be and can be remediated and occupied safely while accomplishing these goals. 

In 2004, the Town of Holliston sought, at the suggestion of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), to solicit bids for a builder to purchase and develop the property.  As part of the bid, any builder would need to offer an amount sufficient to settle a super lien placed on the land by the DEP for DEP’s past cleanup actions at the property.  The Town of Holliston also would receive $250,000 to reimburse it for the cost of removing tires that the former owner, Charlie Bird, accumulated at the property.  It is important to note that neither GVR nor the Trustees of the property had anything to do with the environmental issues at the property. 

Following the issuance of the request for bids, Town Meeting voted not to rezone the property for construction of age-restricted homes.  With the withdrawal of the request for bids, the Trustees of the property sought to find a suitable development plan that would meet the three goals above.  They elected to construct homes under the Comprehensive Permit Law in which twenty-five percent (25%) of the residences would be made available as affordable.  GVR and the Trustees hoped that this would allow for clean up the historic environmental issues at the property while providing affordable homes to teachers, firefighters, civil servants and single mothers in the Town of Holliston.  Under this new plan, the property would become a way for these hard-working men and women to live in the town where they work and in many cases grew up, allow for clean-up of the solid waste and other historic contamination at the property pursuant to DEP regulations, and pay back the state for the monies it incurred to initially respond to the conditions at the property.

Following a protracted public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”), the ZBA rejected the project and denied the application for a Comprehensive Permit.  GVR appealed the Town’s decision to the Housing Appeals Committee (the Committee).  The Committee, after a lengthy hearing and review of all of the evidence in the matter, found that the Town’s objections to the proposed project did not outweigh the need for affordable housing and that the project as proposed would comply with all state and federal laws to clean up and develop the property safely.  The Committee issued the Comprehensive Permit to GVR.  In response, the Town appealed the Committee’s decision to the Land Court, where the Court upheld the decision. 

I repeatedly ask myself the question, “How do the leaders of the Town initiate a process to develop the property, then suddenly contend that the land was contaminated and could not support residential housing?”  However, it is clear that the Town wants to continue to fight this project.  Rather than receive $250,000.00 pursuant to the request for bids, the Town already spent over $150,000.00 and quite possibly near $200,000.00 in an attempt to halt a project that both the Committee and the Land Court deemed appropriate.  Both the Committee and the Land Court saw that GVR is not attempting to pull one over on anyone.  Rather, GVR will clean up the property pursuant to all statutes and regulations and with the guidance and oversight of the DEP.  In fact, the project is classified as a Public Involvement Site and therefore all proposed work will be presented to the Town and public for input and comment.  In the end, Holliston will have a clean property and substantially more affordable housing.  Not to mention our local economy could surely benefit from $70,000,000.00 of commerce where revenue will attribute to local businesses in the Town.  New construction leads to jobs, income, tax revenue, fees and an improved local economy.

As residents, we often have little say on how the day-to-day activities of our government run.  We have little to say as to whether any project should be permitted and built.  I do not know how Holliston would vote on Cedar Ridge Estates given the opportunity.  However, I invite you to learn more about this project at our website ( to learn a bit more about the project and its benefits.  After cutting through the exaggeration and misinformation regarding the project and the property and learning the facts, I ask that you contact the Board of Selectmen and ask that they stop fighting the project.  Your Selectmen are going to make a decision and that decision is going to happen soon.  Call them, email them, tell them you are paying attention and you want a say on an issue that could positively change the community in which we live.

Contact J. Michael Norton the writer at 508-879-8800
More information available at


Comments (12)

Dear Roger You rely on old time Hwy folk for your facts? I'm a stickler for facts and you have yours wrong. The paperwork shows it was GE Telechron of Ashland that did the dumping not Nyanza. Yet just think isn't Chelsea getting married this week-end on the shores of that GE polluted river called the HUDSON? Stewart

Stewart | 2010-07-29 16:52:02

Let's be pragmatic, Cedar Ridge will be, it's just a matter of when. Already Holliston has piled good money after bad appealing the State's finding's. Do we continue?Unfortanately for us all we now have to contend with our toxic waste wrongdoings of the past for it's too soon old and too late smart. As far as toxic matter is concerned, today we ingest so much that insults aad deminishes our immune systems our focus should be there or perhap being fortunate enough to not select to live under power lines. The property has been determined as safe. The Town mostly lost on Appeal. Do we now needlessly spend and waste more money? Stewart

Stewart | 2010-07-29 16:04:05

I welcome any individual to call me directly with concerns on this project. Yes I am a realtor, also the developer and most importantly a citizen of Holliston probably for more years than most. I honestly would like to make a modest living through this project but I will never put profit ahead of ethics. This project will benefit the Town without overcrowding schools,excessively burdening traffic, or furthur pollution of the environment. Green View has a blog you are welcome to comment there as well.

J. Michael Norton | 2010-07-29 12:37:08

You are correct Mr. Norton on how little we have to say in our local goverment. And I believe if a vote were taken tomorrow by the residents of town, you project would go down in flames. As one former highway chief once told me, "you wouldn't believe amount of trucks from Nyanza Chemical of Ashland who dumped waste in that site. Your project will increase the tax rate on already overburdened taxpayers and ironically make Holliston a town to expensive to live in.

Robert | 2010-07-28 21:12:25

I seem to remember something about there being TCE, a cancer causing chemical under the site, as well as flowing towards the aquifer that supplies the Town Wells in that end of town. Adding the water discharged from 200 homes could push that contamination further and faster towards our drinking supply which is just one reason why our town decided it unsafe to issue a permit for this project until further testing could be done. Safe water is a MUST! Of course the state overruled the town - they have a vested interest in the project going through - the DEP has been promised money owed to them to be paid from the project if completed. Does anyone know how much these units would be selling for? I thought it was around $350,000 - ummm, who is going to buy a condo for that??? Even the affordable ones don't seem very affordable! And if they don't sell for that price will the project be feasible - or even finished? Chris, the town has been proactive about finding affordable (it's not low income) housing - one is going up right now behind the old Cutler school. I, for one, feel that spending even another $100K (how much per person would that actually be?) to potentially protect our water supply and as a bonus would at least postpone the need to increase class size and provide all the town services that would be necessary is a good choice. What about looking into an "energy farm" - solar or wind, which would create little or no water discharge and could possibly disturb the buried contamination less if the DEP approved. And it would help create much needed non-fossilized fuel energy. There would probably be town support for that kind of use of the property. So maybe we should call the Selectmen and Mr. Norton to inquire about this type of use. So, as Mr. Norton suggested, call our Selectmen and let them know how you feel about the project.

Other Concerns | 2010-07-28 17:10:54

The whole concept of 40B could potentially end by November 2010 (see The 40B system has not been used by developers to encourage diversity or help out the "lower" class by providing affordable housing. It is simply a way to sidestep zoning and the local approval process to line their pockets. NO DEVELOPER CARES ABOUT HELPING THE UNFORTUNATE OUT! ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS MAKING MONEY! Mr. Norton knows if Hollistonians keep fighting and he doesn't get at least one building permit in hand by the end of the year he could lose the project!

Bye Bye 40B | 2010-07-28 11:44:46

I hope this isn't prejudice to keep low income homes out of Holliston... Ultimately the state will side with the developer Holliston will comply and the town will make some more money on the taxes. Class sizes will go up and we will need another overide to handle the social services. Spending 150k to fight it is a sincere waste of funds. Neighbors complaints are never looked at because affordable housing can get through a lot of regulations that regular builders have to jump through.

chris | 2010-07-28 07:40:17

To GVR et al; Maybe we like our small RURAL Town just the way it is, void of developer blight.

Richard | 2010-07-27 19:29:53

Just to be clear, Michael Norton is the developer of the Cedar Ridge project. He was also involved in the appeal that led to the state overturning the town's decision on the project:

John Hilliard | 2010-07-27 17:38:37

I happen to live off of Prentice St. and do no want this project as it would add any where between 200-400 more cars to Prentice, traffic at the intersection of Highland and Prentice is already very bad, especially during the school year. If this happens a street light will have to be installed and who will pay for that. What about the water, can we support the increase in usage when most of our wells are down now? Also can the schools handle an increase in children? There are too many factors against this large scale building project in this town!

Sam | 2010-07-27 14:46:10

I had hoped that town hall could comment but Paul LeBeau says that due to pending litigation they are not able to tell their side of the story. Let us not forget that the writer is a realtor and therefore has a financial interest in this project.

Shelley | 2010-07-27 13:24:44

I am a litte confused about this article. It mentions 200 affordable housing units. When I checked out the website it states 200 units, 50 of which will be affordable. Which is it?

Janet | 2010-07-27 13:24:43