WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen recently signaled its support of a proposed 108-unit apartment complex on Jefferson Road, across the street from Elia’s, in North Wilmington.
Selectmen voted to authorize the execution of a LIP (local initiative program) application that the developer — Princeton Properties — needs as it brings the proposal to the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community for approval. Selectmen also voted 4-1 to authorize the execution of a development agreement between the Town and the developer.
Town Counsel Jonathan Silverstein summarized the development agreement. Key details include:
- 108 units (down from the originally proposed 120 units)
- 20% of units will be permanently income restricted at 50% of area median income (this represents a higher level of affordability than seen on most other types of affordable units)
- All 108 units must remain as rental units. There’s also a permanent deed restriction on the project for affordability.
- Height restrictions are placed on the building, as well as a 25% lot coverage requirement and 40% open space requirement.
Silverstein noted the project is dependent upon Princeton Properties securing a Mass Works grant to fund various improvements to the area, including the installation of a sewer line, road work, and a culvert repair. All costs associated with preparing and administering the grant will be covered by the developer.
Silverstein stressed that the agreement was not meant to the project’s primary regulatory document. The regulations will be spelled out in a comprehensive permit that would be issued upon the favorable vote of the Wilmington Zoning Board of Appeals after a full public hearing.
Town Manager Jeff Hull reiterated that these votes taken by the Board of Selectmen simply allow the process to move forward to the state level.
“The process would then come back to the town for an extensive review by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Commission,” explained Hull.
“There’s a lot more meetings and process to go,” concurred Town Planning Director Valerie Gingrich.
Developer Will Contribute $250,000 Towards The Construction Of A New Public Safety Substation In North Wilmington
As part of the development agreement, Princeton Properties agreed to will contribute $250,000, over ten years, towards the construction of fire substation in North Wilmington.
“The inclusion of $250,000 towards construction of North Wilmington substation is very significant benefit to the town,” responded Selectman Jonathan Eaton. “We’ve been talking about making that a reality for the last several months. That’s a significant step in the right direction to accomplish that.”
Project Would Get Town Back Over 10% Affordable Housing Threshold And Prevent “Unfriendly” 40B Projects
Attorney Jonathan Silverstein explained that, under state law, ALL 108 rental units in the apartment project would be considered as”affordable” using 40B math, not just the 22 units that would actually be affordable units. He noted this is crucial to getting the town above the state’s 10% affordable housing threshold and protect itself from unfriendly 40B projects.
“The town is under 10%. The hope would be that if a comprehensive permit is issued for this project, it will put the town back over the 10% mark which would protect it from less friendly projects, which under the state regulations, could be as largee as 300-units each,” cautioned Silverstein.
While she can’t say with absolute certainty until the census numbers are eventually released, Town Planning Director Valerie Gingrich is very confident that the project’s 108 units would get the town’s afforable housing inventory over the 10% threshold.
“The project would brings us to 10.5%. Even using a very conservative number, the 108 units brings us well over 10%. We would need 60-70 units to get over 10%, so 108 gives us 10% plus a little bit of buffer,” said Gingrich.
“We have officially fallen below 10%,” Town Manager Jeff Hull reiterated. “The Town is currently vulnerable to a less friendly 40B. It’s important to be able to continue to shepherd this process, one in which we can work with the developer.”
Selectman Mike McCoy was the lone vote against in both votes, stating he believes the apartment complex will be too tall and “not harmonious with the neighborhood.”
“I’m not against affordable housing coming into town,” said McCoy. “But the closest four-story building is commercially zoned down on Ballardvale Street.”
But McCoy’s colleagues cautioned that denying this “friendly 40B” project would likely lead to a future “unfriendly 40B” project in which the town would have no say, wouldn’t have to following local zoning regulations, and could be 2-3 times the size of the current proposal.
“I’m supportive of the project. It’s great opportunity to add more affordable housing in our community,” said Selectmen Chair Greg Bendel. “And we can work with the developer and have some say for the community unlike what potentially could happen to us when we’d have no say. We’ve been fortunate to work with Princeton Properties, which have been very reasonable during tough negotiations.”
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