By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Zoning Board of Appeals met on Tuesday, 1/3, for the opening of the hearing on the 40B project proposed for the former Oxford School site on Main Street at Benoit Square in North Fairhaven.
The Stratford Group has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the town to put 63 units of housing for seniors 62+. Town Meeting approved the measure and the company is pursuing grants.
Ten units will be in the old school building, which will retain its historical nature. The 1950s addition will be demolished and the other units will be in a new building on the site.
Calling it a “friendly 40B,” representatives of the company told the ZBA that they are willing to work with the town on details of the project.
Chapter 40B is a law designed to encourage affordable housing in Massachusetts. It allows ZBAs to be more flexible in granting waivers for projects that include a certain percentage of affordable units. If a municipality has less than 10% of its housing stock as affordable or subsidized, developers have more avenues to appeal a rejected permit in court. According to the state, 6.8% of Fairhaven’s housing is subsidized.
“We’re trying to work with the town to design, construct, and manage these particular units,” said Keith McDonald, Vice President of the Stratford Capital Group.
Discussion mostly centered around the additional parking lot in on the east side of the property, abutting Livesey Park. The company has agreed to create 30 parking spaces for public use, not resident use.
Some changes to the plan shown at Town Meeting were necessary, said officials, after a survey was done, and after input from the Fire Department.
Town Planner and Economic Development Director Bill Roth said the changes were minor, and still included a separation of the two lots so people would know which lot would be for public parking and which one would be for residents.
Mr. McDonald said that the plan they were showing this week had not been “vetted fully” by the town.
He said the changes included a reconfigured lane for the fire truck and other on-site traffic flow considerations as requested by the Fire Department.
The board and members of the public asked about the size and layout of the new building, which will be built into the hill, showing three stories from Main Street and four stories from the park.
Only two members of the public attended the public hearing.
Alfred Fonteneau of Ryle Street said he was concerned about such a high building blocking the sun.
Mr. McDonald said the new building would have a smaller footprint than the old one.
Mr. Fonteneau said he was worried about height more than the footprint.
“We can live with what we have now,” said Mr. Fonteneau, who also asked if the project would hurt property values of surrounding homes.
Mr. Fonteneau also said he worried about parking, because during sporting events at the park, the neighborhood is overrun.
“We can’t even get to our houses,” he said, adding if it’s “pandemonium now,” what will it be like after the new building is up.
Mr. McDonald and Mr. Roth said the 30 new spaces were meant to help alleviate some of those parking problems and said the spaces they have set aside for residents will be sufficient for the new units.
“It don’t think we’re [going to] fully solve it,” said Mr. Roth about the parking issue, adding that there will be no overnight parking in the public lot, so residents cannot park there without getting ticketed. “It will help.”
Mr. Roth also asked the company to look at the traffic flow in Benoit Square, specifically where Adams and Main Street merge.
“It’s a free-for-all,” he said of the merger point.
There is one entrance now, and will be two according to the plans.
In the end, the board asked for the company to come back with studies on traffic flow, stormwater and some engineering aspects of the project.
Mr. Roth will work with the town’s consultant on the project, attorney Paul Haverty, to draft guidelines for Stratford.
Mr. Haverty said the ZBA has 180 days to act on the proposal.
Waivers for the project include a multi-family facility in a single family district, exceeding maximum lot size coverage and building coverage, and side setbacks of five feet instead of 10 feet. The company is also looking for a waiver on the stormwater regulations, requesting to use the Department of Environmental Protection standards because the town’s local standards are more stringent.
Mr. Roth said in a follow-up interview that there has been a “lot of new technology” for stormwater control since the town bylaws were passed years ago.
The public hearing was continued to the next meeting on 2/7 at 6 p.m.
In other business, the ZBA approved a petition by Wayne and Linda Gallant, 357 Bridge Street, to build a home in the Nasketucket River Basin. A special permit is required to build in the NRB.
The board also approved a variance for Paul and Elaina Lentendre enabling them to divide their property at 80 Fir Street and build another house. The property, at about 72,000 square feet, is large enough to divide and create two conforming lots, which requires 30,000 sf minimum each. The existing house, however, is too close to the property line, at 11.9 feet, requiring a variance. The property owners plan to leave the existing house where it is and build a new house on another part of the property.
No one spoke for or against the proposal, but one neighbor did get clarification on where the new house would go. The owners said it will stay within the setback requirements.
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