HANSON — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday, Aug. 31 continued it’s public hearing on the Cushing Trails LLC application for a 44-unit comprehensive Chapter 40B permit off Spring Street.
With a year-end deadline to complete this phase of the process, the board voted to continue the hearing to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 9.
The hearing, broadcast as a self-service production submitted to Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV for playback on the Hanson government access channel and WHCA’s YouTube channel, was held in the Selectmen’s meeting room at Town Hall.
“There’s numerous topics that we discussed last hearing, traffic, sidewalks, landscaping, septic systems, culverts, parking, environmental concerns and water,” Cushing Trails attorney Michael O’Shaughnessy said. “I believe we’ve presented to the board information on all these points and I think we’ll be able to satisfactorily address all these comments tonight.”
Joe Pignola, attending through a grant to the town of Hanson from the Mass. Housing Partnership, said his role was as an adviser to the board. “My role is to assist … and help you stay within the lines,” Pignola said. He has been an engineer for 30 years who has served on a ZBA as well as a project engineer for nonprofits as well as privately-owned projects. He has worked on 40B projects for 20 years.
“There’s a presumption that the need for affordable housing outweighs local concerns,” Pignola said. “You start with that presumption.”
Local concerns, he indicated are local bylaws, but Pignola said the ZBA must process the data and listen to concerns and understand what’s going on in the community, watching for issues that overcome the need for local concerns to prevail.
He explained that the applicants must demonstrate there are requirements for project eligibility, site control — they have a purchase and sale agreement — and they must commit to control profits and be monitored in doing so.
Pignola said input from the Board of Health would be advised because of the proximity to groundwater, and that there have been concerns voiced about the nearby landfill, as well.
Overall, at the second meeting stage, Pignola said the process for Cushing Trails is ahead of schedule because they had a peer review done right away.
“It all starts with engaging your other boards and your staff to help you in this complex process,” he said. With a window of 180 days from opening the hearing process to competition, he said the ZBA is looking at the end of the year as a deadline, with an extra 40 days after the hearing closes in which to render a decision. Both processes can be extended on request.
A denial or conditioned approval the applicant does not like, gives them recourse to appeal to housing appeals court, which would decide if a conditioned approval was uneconomic.
Town Counsel Jay Talerman added that while peer reviews identify technical issues that require changes, after that it’s not all technical.
“The next part of it … you get to review what is good for the neighborhood,” Talerman said. “Is density causing an issue that reflects or causes issues that are negative for the neighborhood? … things that cost the developers money.”
Developers then can negotiate with the town to address those issues.
“I’m not saying that discussion will happen here, but when we’re done with all the technical stuff, that is the discussion,” Talerman said. “Nothing in this project jumps out as being so egregious as to warrant a denial, but as an attorney … I’m not here to tell you [that] you shouldn’t say no, I’m here to tell you what the risks and benefits of saying no are. It’s your town.”
While Pignola said the aim is to identify issues that would impact or stop the project, he said nothing he has seen so far that is in that mind-set. Every 40B is more dense than local zoning typically permit, he said, making it necessary to answer whether that density is too much for local infrastructure, including Title V septic regulations.
“The bottom line is, I’m here to help you,” he said. “The applicant wants a good project, the neighbors want a good project, and that should be everybody’s goal.”
A project engineer, landscape architect and an environmental consultant also appeared with O’Shaughnessy to speak about the project. They had worked with the applicant on a 350-page report addressing the concerns of people who live in the area, O’Shaughnessy said.
Civil Engineer Joseph Webby said a guardrail has been added to the plan and a vinyl fence has been relocated and the entire site has been wrapped with a 18-inch silt sock to protect groundwater in the area. No parking signs have also been added to ease traffic flow in the area and assist fire apparatus in accessing the development, if necessary. Post-development calculations have also been revised on utilities and storm water engineering, Webby said.
“We’ve had some incomplete details on a drainage basin,” that’s been completed,” Webby said. More frequent mowing of drainage basins has also been added to the maintenance plan.
Perkins asked what material the guardrail would be made of, which Webby answered that a wood guardrail would be made of pressure-treated material.
“I was just envisioning a metal guardrail [like on] the side of I-93,” Perkins said. He also indicated he would expect the entrance of the property be closed off with the 18-inch silt sock at the end of each work day, which Webby confirmed.
Sidewalks would be separated from the roadway by concrete curbing and a four-foot grass strip, O’Shaughnessy said. Visitor parking has also been added to the front of the site and the houses were pushed back on the site plan as much as possible to add an additional parking space at each unit as well as a garage.
“We tried to pull them away from the property line as well,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Evergreen and deciduous trees have been added to the landscape plan to separate the development from the street and other properties and a walking trail has been added around the property. The condominium association would have responsibility for maintaining the landscape of the common areas.
Bill Kenny of River Hawk Environmental reported on citizen concerns about wells located on the Rockland side of the property, including what he described as an important hydro-geological factor — that water at the site flows toward north, away from the site.
Kenny said the DEP tracks, according to state landscaping regulations, the site number it assigns to each project area after a comprehensive assessment to determine where waste and other issues are located in relation to the nearby landfill, followed by the owner’s long-term maintenance and monitoring plan, this case by B Street Landfill run be CDM Smith of Cambridge.
He said groundwater monitoring reports that water quality and flow standard concerns are “not really relevant” because of the northward flow of water [26:00 to 31:00].
“It is my opinion that this development won’t impact anything associated with the landfill,” Kenny said. He added that a swale should carry water away from the property.
One area resident said the report on drainage addressed his biggest concerns about the project — drainage and sidewalks.
“With the latest that they’ve submitted, they’ve shown there won’t be any increase in the rate for volume runoff off site … not at the existing conditions now,” he said of drainage, which had been his biggest concern.
A traffic expert who conducted a peer review of the initial traffic study for the project said, the conservative side the study of the site was satisfactory or above average. He did endorse that some pruning should be done at the site entrance.
“I don’t think you’re wrong moving forward without doing anything down there,” he said.
O’Shaughnessy echoed his contention that, with 61 percent of traffic headed north and about 39 percent headed to the south at the Route 58/Spring Street intersection, during the morning the development would add 13 vehicles and 16 in the evening. The review concluded, according to O’Shaughnessy that it would “not result in a material increase in motorist delays or vehicle queuing.”