State Restriction Could Block Chloe’s Path Housing Project

By: William F. Galvin

Harwich town seal.

HARWICH — The attorney for an abutter to the proposed Chloe’s Path 96-unit housing development off Sisson Road is claiming that the developer does not have the right to build on the land because it would violate a

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife covenant.

Attorney Andrew Singer, representing property owners Gary Terry and Peter Donovan and the proposed developer Kemah Apartments, was before selectmen Monday night seeking support for a “friendly 40B” project under the state Local Initiative Program. The owners are proposing an affordable and mixed-income housing development for the 9.29-acre parcel to the rear of the town’s public safety complex on Sisson Road.

The proposal has drawn a lot of negative reaction from neighbors who say they support affordable housing but say there are too many negative impacts, including density, traffic and wastewater issues in an environmentally sensitive area.

Attorney Michael D. Ford, representing abutters Robert and Andrea Doane, said a “limit of disturbance” zone was negotiated with the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. There are “Forever Wild” areas located within the approved seven-lot subdivision plan that must not be disturbed, he said, asserting that the buildings and roadway around the structures encroach on the area. The covenant governing the land was filed in the registry of deeds, he added.

“They don’t have the property rights to apply for it,” Ford said of the project. “Those areas have to remain absolutely natural.”

Ford also expressed concern for nitrogen impacts from such a large project. He pointed to high freshwater levels around Forest Street and the movement of nitrogen through Grassy Pond to Cold Brook and out to Saquatucket Harbor.

He said that if selectmen support the project, the developer could use that endorsement to influence a change in the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife covenant.

In his presentation, Singer said the Local Initiative Program provides selectmen with more local input and control than a traditional 40B comprehensive permit. Market studies have indicated the need for rental housing in the community and on the Cape, he said.

The project calls for 24 affordable housing units and 72 mixed-income units. Singer said that all 96 units would be added to the town’s affordable housing stock. The state has sent a goal that 10 percent of a town's housing stock be affordable, and this would increase the town’s inventory from 5.4 percent to 7 percent, he said. The most recent update of the Harwich Production Plan calls for 80 percent of new affordable housing to be rentals, he added.

The project would include 144 bedrooms, and Singer said an advanced amphidrome wastewater treatment facility requiring a state Department of Environmental Protection groundwater discharge permit is being proposed. The system would be designed to connect to the town sewer system once it is available, he added.

The proponents are asking the selectmen to say that they support affordable housing on the property, Singer said.

Sisson Road resident Peter Gori said he represented a dozen property owners who are looking for “a seat at the table” in the discussion. He said he is not against affordable housing but he doesn’t yet understand the scale of the project.

Kathy Clobridge, also a Sisson Road resident, said she is concerned about public safety vehicles getting in and out if a project of this scale is built. Traffic issues were also raised by Jay Walpole, who said he lives directly across Sisson Road from Chloe’s Path.

“I need your help,” Walpole told selectmen. He said there would be 176 vehicles moving in and out of the development with headlights shining into rooms in his house. There will be noise and light pollution, he added. Karen Beaty called the development disingenuous and a risk to public safety and personal property. A lot of traffic stops on Sisson Road when parents are going to Harwich Elementary School to pick up students, she added.

Singer said the owners have already retained VHB, Inc., a traffic engineering firm which does a lot of work for the town. Some neighbors that a traffic study be done in August.

Selectman Donald Howell, who is also chairman of the town's affordable housing trust, said the Harwich Ecumenical Council for Housing has 14 affordable housing units just south of Chloe's Path. The affordable housing trust is about to release a request for proposals for eight to10 units between Parallel and Forest streets to the north, he added.

Selectman Chairman Michael MacAskill said he is not against affordable housing but he does not know if he can support the proposal without adding three or four pages of conditions based on what he heard from the neighbors and members of the board. If the proponents do not get Local Initiative Program support, they are still likely to move ahead with a comprehensive permit through the appeals board, he said.

No action was taken on Monday night and the Chloe’s Path proponents are expected to be back before the board on Aug. 23.