Neighbors Comment On Town’s Affordable Housing Plans

By: Ed Maroney

A 2020 plan showing an early concept for the 107 Main St. site. COURTESY SV DESIGN

ORLEANS Both affordable housing developments have been in the news for years. One was poised to receive a comprehensive permit from the zoning board of appeals last night (April 7), while the other is a few months away from identifying a developer and a plan.

Both the former (Pennrose, LLC’s plan for 62 rental units at the former Cape Cod 5 operations center on West Road) and the latter (ongoing work to create housing at 107 Main St., the former Masonic Lodge site) have been the subject of many public meetings. Many questions have been asked and many answered, but not all questioners have been satisfied.

Last night, while Pennrose was meeting with the zoning board of appeals to secure its comprehensive permit, the select board was scheduled to discuss a March 19 letter about the West Road development from Sandy Chernick, secretary of the neighboring Landings Edge Condominium Association.

“Residents of Landings Edge are advising you and pleading with you to put the brakes on the CC5 property project,” Chernick wrote to the select board. The plan “would more than double the population on West Road. We now have 29 units at Skaket and 25 units at Landings Edge. That’s a total of 54 units while Pennrose plans to build 62 units. This kind of city-like congestion does not belong in Orleans. This increased density would ruin our small town atmosphere and be demeaning to the new residents.”

Pennrose’s plan calls for 101 bedrooms in a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, with 74 parking spaces. At the zoning board’s March 17 meeting, attorney Andrew Singer, representing Pennrose, noted that the required number of parking spaces in the town bylaw is based on dwelling units, not bedrooms, and that the development is designed to meet that standard.

In her letter, Chernik contrasted those numbers with Landings Edge’s 25 units, 50 bedrooms, and 45 parking spaces. “That’s almost two spaces per unit,” she wrote. “Even with this number, it is tight here at the height of the summer visiting season.” Although efforts to bring affordable housing to Orleans are laudable, she wrote, this plan “is too big.”

The select board has been unanimous in its support for the development, which has already received formal site plan review committee approval and undergone preliminary review by the architectural review committee. Pennrose has a purchase and sales agreement with Cape Cod 5 and is seeking $2 million in community preservation funds from the town toward the purchase; town meeting will vote on that request next month. Once zoning is approved, the development can get in line for state-administered funding programs.

Meanwhile, on March 30, the affordable housing trust hosted a virtual meeting with neighbors of the 107 Main St. property, where it hopes to see a developer build up to 14 affordable rental units with 20 bedrooms at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Currently, that’s $54,150 for an individual and $77,300 for a family of four.

The meeting included a presentation of a draft request for proposals that the town intends to publish later this month to attract developers. Citing results of a meeting with abutters and others last August, housing coordinator Marsha Allgeier said, “We did take care to understand neighbors’ expressed concerns about development of affordable housing at this site and incorporate them into the RFP.” Concerns included impacts on Quail Hill Lane, noise, site lighting, signage, waste removal, and construction impacts, among others.

It’s expected the final version of the document will be reviewed by the housing trust April 20, then advertised. Proposals will be due in June.

“As chairman of the trust, I can assure you that there will be as many public meetings as we need to discuss this project and its relationship to the neighborhood,” Alan McClennen said. “When we have something that can be shown, it will be shown before any decisions are made. Once the preliminary decision has been made, the winner has to go through the public permitting process. It will require a Chapter 40B permit from the zoning board, public hearings, comments, and decisions.”

Lindsey Malatesta Goodman, who lives on Quail Hill Lane, said her “largest concern with this property is the driveway and pulling right out onto Main Street. It’s already a blind drive. A lot of cars coming out of there is really concerning to me. I think traffic will really stack up, especially in the summer.” Planning and Community Development Director George Meservey assured her that the development would not use Quail Hill Lane, but agreed that there’d need to be a driveway “in the right location” and said that safety would be addressed.

Another Quail Hill resident, Josh Stewart, said the trust “was missing a really important opportunity on this property if you just pop in there and drop a building that has 14 units for 20 people and maximizes density… The solution doesn’t have to be a big building with apartments. Look at the people on the screen (for the virtual meeting) who live in little houses on Quail Hill. That’s what people want. I wish we were building something that could really give younger families what they’re looking for as their Cape Cod home… I just want to see some creative solutions around adding more than just a bedroom to our town. We need a lot more than that.”

“What we’re trying to do is create a change consistent with the history of Orleans and even what goes on on Quail Hill,” McClennen said. “I’ve driven all the way down. The RFP does not say you cannot have smaller houses on this site. What will make the determination is the developer’s understanding of what works here… We have held in reserve additional funds to make sure that what happens here is a positive contribution to the architecture in the neighborhood. There’s nothing more important in my mind than making sure what happens on this site is consistent with the historic character of Main Street. It is where Orleans started.”