Town Boards Dig Into Details On Pennrose Housing Proposal

By: Ed Maroney

An updated landscaping concept plan shows a fire lane running behind the main building. The fire department had requested that the access be included.


ORLEANS Pennrose, LLC, has a date with the community preservation committee today (Jan. 28) at 4:30 p.m. to discuss its request for $2 million to help buy the Cape Cod Five’s former operations center for transformation into affordable housing. The company is also seeking $700,000 in total from neighboring towns’ community preserve committees toward the $3.25 million purchase price.

“We’ve already met with the Eastham CPC,” Pennrose Regional Vice President Charlie Adams said during the zoning board of appeal’s initial hearing on the development Jan. 20. “They passed a recommendation to town meeting to give us $100,000. We have other meetings lined up with other towns.” Eastham is returning the favor from Orleans, which contributed $100,000 in CPC funds to Eastham’s Village at Nauset Green built by Pennrose.

Orleans CPC members were expected to discuss bonding the requested funds, perhaps over a 20-year period.

The housing development of 62 rental units was spurred by the town’s affordable housing committee and affordable housing trust board, with the support of Planning and Community Development Director George Meservey, over the last several years. Conversations with the bank, which was moving its operations center to Hyannis, made clear its interest in converting the property to affordable housing. With the institution’s permission, the building and site’s potential, as well as housing needs that could be met by them, were assessed.

Pennrose, which has built its development plan on that foundation, is seeking a comprehensive permit from the zoning board of appeals. That means the ZBA grants all local permits, though other boards are invited to comment on the plans (and have, with more to come, including the architectural review committee).

“You folks as a town spent a long time looking at this site, targeting it for use as affordable housing,” Adams told the board last week. “We were able to look at those studies and come up with a scheme that represented the vision of the site that the community actually wanted to see. We tried to model our plan on one folks are most interested in.”

The site, which will be connected to town sewer, is convenient to shopping and transportation. Much green space will be preserved, and new plantings are promised. A fire access lane, requested by the fire department, has been added around the back of the main building, which will include the renovated operations center and a new addition. There are two separate town house apartment buildings elsewhere on the property.

In issuing a comprehensive permit, the board can approve waivers from zoning regulations. Pennrose is looking for a handful: maximum building height, apartment density, number of units in a building, additional pre-construction site plan review, and parking. The building height would not exceed the existing 40 feet.

One area of parking still raising concerns is that in front of the town houses, where backing out could conflict with traffic entering the site along an existing boulevard with a median. “What I would love to do is keep this boulevard,” Adams said. “It’s a great amenity for the site, (but) it created some additional challenges.” It’s possible some parking could be moved to the side of the town homes.

Dennisport attorney Andrew Singer, representing Pennrose, said that “the standard parking is 1.5 spaces per apartment unit. What’s being proposed is 1.26 under the (comprehensive permit) waiver.”

“If a lot of people who live here have two jobs, a couple, and they each need a car and there’s not enough parking, what happens?” board member Lynne Eickholt asked. “It would be people’s individual choice,” Adams said. “If they can’t have two cars here, it may not be the best place they want to live… If there’s not enough parking, we’re not able to lease units and we lose rent. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought the ratio was not enough based on experience across our portfolio” of properties. He said Eastham’s Village at Nauset Green has 65 apartments and 65 spaces.

“This appears to be a great development and one that will be an asset to the town,” member Matt Cole said. “We have a study that says we need 100 new units. This takes us a long way to that goal.” That said, he had questions about the aesthetics of the building, suggesting things had fallen short in that category with the Eastham development.

“We need to show you what the outside looks like,” Adams said, noting that elevations of the buildings were still being prepared. The existing building will be re-skinned to allow new windows and other elements with better insulation. Asked by Cole whether he’d accept a condition prohibiting vinyl siding, Adams said, “I think I’d like to stay away from that. It’s something we often have to use. It can be made to look like it blends in with the Cape… If we can afford non-vinyl siding, we will absolutely do that… If that’s a priority of the board, we will work hard to figure out how to get it into the project.”

Earlier, Andrew Stebbins, senior project manager of The Architectural Team, said the plans was “to lean on the Orleans design guidelines” and that the renovated building and its addition “will definitely have sort of a residential feel” including some areas with shingle siding.

The development will be back before the zoning board on Feb. 17.