(UPDATE #1: Having just re-watched the 2017 Annual Town Meeting, the headline should read “near the intersection of Main Street and Butters Row.” The property in question does go to the corner, but the construction will not take place next to it.)
(UPDATE #2: During his presentation at Town Meeting, the attorney representing Mr. Welch never mentioned affordable units during his presentation. He did reference a 2015 survey conducted by the town that highlighted the need for more housing opportunities for first-time homebuyers and empty-nesters looking to downsize, but he never claimed these units would be affordable units.)
WILMINGTON, MA — A residential development — 10 townhouses and 39 condos — has been proposed for 635 Main Street, on the corner of Main Street and Butters Row. The site abuts the Salvation Army’s Thrift Store, is across from Colonial Park Mall, and is in front of the Commuter Rail Line.
The property was rezoned from General Industrial to Neighborhood Mixed Use back during the 2017 Annual Town Meeting (Article 56), but the project is just now in front of the Planning Board, seeking a site plan review and necessary permits.
The developer, Jacquelyn Welch of Mass Equity Investors, is proposing 10 town house units towards the front of the property and a 3-story building with 39 units (1-bedroom and 2-bedroom) towards the back of the property, with a parking garage underneath. (The back of the townhouses would face Main Street.) There’s a total of 99 parking spots on the entire site, resulting in a 2:1 unit-to-parking ratio.
Planning Board Chair Michael Sorrentino read into the record nearly 10 minutes of concerns and required changes from Planning Director Valerie Gingrich and Town Engineer Paul Alunni.
“The proposed buildings appear to be too large for the developable area. This is evident in the poor site layout circulation and overall poor arrangement of proposed utilities and stormwater management systems,” Alunni wrote and Sorrentino read. “The layout is limiting and does not provide ideal parking access or internal vehicle circulation.”
“So, sounds like you have a lot of work,” Surrentino summed up.
“Yes, we know this is a work in progress. We’re one of the first applicants to submit in neighborhood mixed use,” acknowledged a project representative. “We understand the Planning Board and Conservation Commission want. We’ve already started some of the revisions.”
Selectman Ed Loud wanted to know why there were no affordable units as part of the development.
“When they came to Town Meeting to get this approved, we were told the units were going to be affordable to the people in town,” Loud told the Planning Board. “This particular developer has railed against the Selectmen, saying the town has a crisis with affordable units. Here’s an opportunity – we’re going to add 49 units to our inventory, and there’s no affordability units? You guys are the authority of permitting this – I think you should do something about it.”
“It doesn’t make sense on the site. The numbers don’t work,” Jacquelyn Welch responded when Sorrentino asked her about the lack of affordability units.
“Why didn’t you tell us at Town Meeting?,” interrupted Loud. “I voted for this project because there was affordability. I was told then these would be cheaper than what’s going on in town. Now I’m hearing a different story. And that’s wrong.”
“This project, when we went to Town Meeting, was never an affordable project,” added Welch. “It was ‘more affordable,’ but not ‘affordable’ that counts towards your count.”
“Town Meeting was lied to,” responded Loud.
“Look, I can’t speak to that. And we don’t do people’s business plans. If it works with the zoning, it works,” responded Sorrnetino.
Welch clarified the 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom condos will be in the $300’s, while the townhouses will be in the $400’s.
“As you know, we don’t have a zoning bylaw requiring affordability right now,” Sorrentino told Loud.
“That’s another thing this board should be changing, a lot quicker than it has been,” Loud responded, referring to the Planning Board’s drafting of an “inclusionary bylaw” for the 2019 Town Meeting. Under such a bylaw, a developer would be required to make a certain percentage of units affordable when building a new development.
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