March 15 2016

Selectmen Set Next Meeting as Decision Day on 'Friendly 40B' Affordable Housing Proposals

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen once again discussed the possibility of moving forward on a Friendly 40B project but fell short of choosing to support one of the two proposed applicants. 

One of the proposed projects is a 200-unit complex in The District, formerly known as New England Executive Park. The second is a 271-unit complex in Burlington Corporate Center. Both projects would have 25 percent affordable housing, meaning that all the units would apply to the town’s total affordable housing percentage. 


That percentage is important and the driving factor behind why the town is considering 40B projects. Under Massachusetts law, a town must have at least10 percent affordable housing in order to meet the 40B requirement. If a town falls below 10 percent, it loses a lot of the power it has if a developer comes in and wants to build an affordable housing project. The biggest concern raised at the meeting is that the town could lose a lot of the control it has as to where an affordable housing project might be built. 


Currently Burlington has 10.4 percent affordable housing though there is a fear the number will drop when the amount is re-evaluated during the 2020 Census. 


Chairman of the Board Mike Runyan said the task of the board is to give the go-ahead to one or both of the projects. Once that happens the applicant or applicants must go to the state for approval and after that the details and final approval would be worked out by the Zoning Board of Appeals. 


Attorney Robert Buckley of Riemer & Braunstein, who is representing The Davis Companies in its bid for the Corporate Center project, said this is a long process. He said that from the time a company sends an application to the state to the point of undergoing construction can take a couple of years. 


Selectman Dan Grattan suggested the board’s subcommittee, consisting of himself and Runyan, should meet before the next selectmen meeting to come up with a list of what the town wants out of a 40B project. This would include an approximate number of units, who the project would benefit as far as far as tenants (i.e. seniors or young professional) and the type of location. 


Though the idea of approving both projects has been floated before, Runyan said he didn’t think that was the way to go at this time. 


“I suggest that if we entertain both projects for 480 units that would lead to disaster for both of them,” he said. “I’d suggest we choose one proposal, monitor the process, and consider the other at a future date.”


Town Administrator John Petrin said that if the board is learning towards allowing approximately 200 units, it needs to choose one project. He said asking each to build 100-unit complexes wouldn’t make financial or market sense for either entity. 


The board ended discussion with a commitment to make a choice, with input from the sub-committee, during the next meeting in two weeks. 

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