Archive 2008 - 2019

Setting the Record Straight

by Michael Norton

As my campaign for Selectman has moved forward, I have heard many negative and uninformed comments regarding the Cedar Ridge Estates project.  I would like to take this opportunity to set the records straight on several issues.

First, I have been asked why I am suing the Town of Holliston.  In fact, Green View Realty, LLC (“GVR”), the development company behind Cedar Ridges, is being sued by the Town.  Initially, GVR filed an application for the Cedar Ridge Estates project with the Zoning Board of Appeals.  After the ZBA denied the project, the Housing Appeals Committee found that the denial was inappropriate and issued the Comprehensive Permit for the project. At his stage, GVR is a co-defendant with the Housing Appeals Committee (represented by the Attorney General).  It is actually the Town of Holliston that has initiated two successive litigations in an attempt to overturn the Housing Appeals Committee decision to grant a comprehensive permit for the Cedar Ridge Estates development. 

Second, I continue to hear that c. 40B allows the developer to “violate” the Town’s By Laws.  This is not the case.  A Comprehensive Permit under c. 40B streamlines the zoning process and allows for the construction of affordable housing in municipalities which do not meet the minimum criteria set by the state.  In this case, that minimum criteria is to have ten percent of housing units be affordable.  Holliston is well below that threshold.  C. 40B allows the developer to waive certain requirements of the local By Laws in order to construct affordable housing.  However, this does not mean that where the Town has a legitimate local concern for the health and safety of its residents, the Developer can just overwhelm the local rules.  That is the balancing that takes place under c. 40B.  A Developer must also comply with all state and federal regulations.

The provisions of 40B were enacted precisely to overcome a municipality’s natural tendency to pass Laws that tend to restrict housing in away that makes it financially more difficult for lower income citizens to live where they work. When a local community cannot demonstrate that their local laws are more important than the need for the Town to provide for more affordable housing, the State Law supersedes the By Law to mandate the housing permit.   A comprehensive permit to build is issued as a trade off for the financial sacrifice that the developer makes to support the housing subsidy.  The cost to the Town is born by the Developer even though the benefit inures to the Town’s obligation to provide affordable housing.  Once considered a fair trade, towns now shun new development and complain that they don’t have enough local authority to prohibit affordable housing.

So long as the safety of the Town Citizens or the Land is not threatened by the construction, the need for Affordable Housing generally exceeds the local by law. This makes sense and that is why it is the Law.  The mere fact that a town does not like the idea or does not want the development is not sufficient to stop a project approved under 40(b).  Perhaps it is not a perfect Law but without this Law, Towns like Holliston would continue to justify restricted Zoning By Laws that insidiously undermine affordable housing.

So in fact I serve my Town well by creating jobs, adding to economic development, eliminating contamination, and provided new homes with an affordable component.  The fact that I could also be a Selectman does not interfere or conflict with the Law and nor do Selectmen have authority in this area.  So I still ask for your vote so that I can lead the town in sorely needed economic development that will matter to the Town’s future.

Comments (8)

Also the developer has spent in excess of $250,000.00 to test and determine that the land can be successfully cleaned up. Down wind homeowners need not worry about airborne contamination as this is accounted for in the remediation plan and insurance will be purchased to indemnify any casualty losses in the unlikely event that buried contamination is accidently released.

J. Michael Norton | 2011-05-17 18:57:22

Just to clarify: The percentage of affordable homes required is also linked to the Census information (currently 2000) Thus the required number of affordable homes is 10% of the 2000 census based on the number of living units at that time. This prevents the circular logic of more housing units constantly creating an endless increase in required affordable units.

J. Michael Norton | 2011-05-17 18:50:50

I don't have a problem with the 40B policy normally. But in this case not knowing what was buried in the "Bird Property" years ago gives me concern. The residents down wind when construction starts could face health risks. I for one would like the local boards to have a say into how the excavation is done.

Downwind resident | 2011-05-16 16:31:51

BC, the 150 non-affordable units cause an increase in our needed affordable stock of homes by 15 (10% of 150), the 50 affordable units provided by the developmnet are greater than the extra 15 now needed. So, in the end, the development improves our existing percentage. Simple math.

LT | 2011-05-16 08:11:23

I was going to ask the same question. I always thought that the percentage is based on the total units in the town not just on one project. Also as far as the good of the town is concerned, I saw a notice in the newspaper that the trust did not pay last year's taxes on the property.

Janet | 2011-05-15 13:03:45

When we add 50 units of affordable housing and at the same time add 150 units of non-affordable housing, the number of units we need to get to 10% affordable rises because the number of non-affordable units rises. So how do we get to that magic 10% if we are adding such a large number of non-affordable units all at once??

BC | 2011-05-15 12:45:50

While I am no fan of Mr. Norton's candidacy or development plans, the explanation is, 50 divided by 200 is greater than 10%.

LT | 2011-05-15 10:29:18

I would like an explanation of how a developer is helping us with our affordable housing stock when it adds 50 units of affordable housing and 150 units of regular housing, raising the number of regular homes available and thus raising the amount of affordable units we need to reach our goal of 10 percent. It's akin to a dog chasing its tail, we are never going to catch up this way. It also seems to me that affordable housing should be in a convenient location near transportation and shops, churchs etc, not out in the boonies at the edge of town. It seems that there are other ways we can create affordable house without creating 200 unit developments with two car garages and two additional parking spaces, taxing our roads, school system and other services and perhaps endangerour our natural resources. I believe the people of this town are open to affordable housing when done in a reasonable and thoughtful manner.

Brenda Chamberlain | 2011-05-14 21:01:13