Two Forums Scheduled For Proposed 100-Unit Development

By: William F. Galvin

Harwich news.

HARWICH — Opposition is building to the 100-unit apartment development proposed on 12 acres off Route 137 in East Harwich. There is a petition circulating seeking to block the development and at least one member of the board of selectmen is speaking out against the project.

Selectmen this week agreed to hold a public forum next Monday on the proposed development based on the mounting opposition. A presentation is also scheduled remotely on Thursday (today) at 1 p.m. before the affordable housing trust.

The project is proposed by Chatham developer Chris Wise, who has stated he plans to seek a 40B permit, which allows local zoning provisions to be waived in communities with less than 10 percent affordable housing stock. Wise said the development would be comprised of 75 percent market rate and 25 percent affordable units.

The housing committee gave its preliminary support to the plan when Wise made a presentation a month ago.

But residents' opposition to the proposal has been mounting. A petition addressed to the selectmen, planning board, housing committee, community preservation committee, board of appeals and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership calls for stopping the 100-unit housing project. It bears more than 600 signatures.

The property is located on the east side of Route 137 between Chrisjobeth Road and Sherwood Road. Wise has planning board approval for a 10-lot subdivision on the 12.27 acre parcel. But the developer has said the location is ideal for a 40B project because of its proximity to the East Harwich village where 54 businesses are located within six-tenths of a mile from the property.

The housing committee held its first meeting Monday since issuing preliminary support for the project a month ago. Several residents of the neighborhood where the development is proposed spoke out against it. There were questions raised about the transparency of the planned use of the property.

Christine Howard and Leighanne Smith said they understood the development included 10 house lots from approval granted by the planning board last December. There was no mention of a 100-unit apartment complex at the time, Howard said.

“We were presented with something that was a lie,” Sherwood Road resident Joel S. Rodman said, adding changes have been made with no notification to the abutters. Rodman said the housing committee made its recommendation without hearing from the abutters. The housing committee was asked to rescind its support.

The abutters said they were caught by surprise by the change in plans. Wise made a presentation to the affordable housing trust on the concept of establishing an 80- to 100-unit 40B development at the site in late July of 2019. The Chronicle published a story on the conceptual plan at the time.

Housing Committee Chairman Art Bodin said his committee is just an advisory board. Bodin and committee member Cindi Maule said they were unaware of the earlier meetings relating to the 10-lot subdivision and wanted more information. The committee took no further action on Monday night.

In the selectmen’s meeting an hour later, Selectman Micheal MacAskill requested the board hold a forum on the proposal, referring to the petition and comments he is receiving. Last week the board also raised issues about a 100-unit development being added to the new sewer system in East Harwich.

“At least this member would like to vote in opposition,” MacAskill said. “I think we need to make a statement sooner than later.”

Selectmen chairman Larry Ballantine agreed selectmen needed to provide a forum, but he cautioned that the board should not to get into the position of impacting the regulatory process. Selectman Donald Howell agreed the proposal coming before selectmen at this time is appropriate. He pointed out selectmen will be asked by the developer to provide a letter of support under the Local Initiative Program to be sent to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership. The board agreed to place this issue on its Oct. 26 agenda.