Battle Continues Over Chloe’s Path Housing Development

By: William F. Galvin

Harwich town seal.

HARWICH – Neighborhood opposition to the proposed Chloe’s Path development off Sisson Road remained strong as proponents of the 96-unit proposed affordable/mixed unit housing project made another attempt Monday to gain the support of selectmen.

Opponents said the project will violate an environmental deed restriction on the property and disrupt the neighborhood. The owner's representative countered that it will provide much-needed market-rate and affordable year-round rental units. Selectmen took no action Monday.

Kemah Apartments is proposing the 9.3-acre development to the rear of the town’s public safety facilities. The proponents, through attorney Andrew Singer, have been before selectmen three times seeking the board’s support with the state’s Local Initiative Program (LIP). The board's support is required to move forward with a so-called friendly 40B proposal, which would allow the project to qualify for certain regulatory and zoning waivers.

Attorney Michael Ford, representing abutters Robert and Andrea Doane, said the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife has implemented deed restrictions on sections of the parcel, including land proposed for the development. Ford said the developer cannot move forward until a “Forever Wild” covenant is removed. It can only be changed through the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, he said.

Ford urged the board not to support the LIP request, asserting that the developer will go to state and argue the town wants to use the land for affordable housing.

Singer said the developer will comply with the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act/Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program regulations and either seek an amendment to the approval or redesign the project layout.

Prior to the Chloe’s Path discussion, town counsel Amy Kwesell of KP Law, LLC, provided the board with a presentation on the Local Initiative Program. She recommended that the board not support the project unless there are incentives offered by the developer that benefit the town, such as additional affordable housing units, reduction in the number of units proposed, sewer infrastructure, road work, nitrogen or traffic mitigation, or sidewalk improvements. 

There should be clear benefits to the town, Kwesell said. If such an agreement is reached and a memorandum of understanding is signed, the town would gain a layer of protection.  A LIP development also needs to be in harmony with the community, including land standards, architectural compliance, and meeting housing needs, she said.

Singer said the project will provide everything Kwesell addressed. It  will comply with dimensional setbacks, building coverage and site coverage requirements under the zoning bylaw. The project will provide critically needed market rate, affordable housing, and year-round rental opportunities for the community, he said.

The property has a seven-lot, 28-bedroom subdivision already approved, and that option comes with no provisions for wastewater treatment, Singer said. The wastewater treatment proposed for the 96-unit development will benefit the environment more than what the town has required with the subdivision, he said.

Town Administrator Joseph Powers and selectmen had a number of questions about the residential market analysis provided by the developer's consultants, Tracy Cross & Associates. There were language issues relating to workforce versus deed restricted housing, and Powers recommend they be corrected so the selectmen could have a better understanding of how conclusions were developed. 

Selectman Julie Kavanagh questioned the use of costs per square foot based on housing figures from Plymouth, not Cape Cod. Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill questioned the difference in market comparisons provided by Eastward Company for a project in Brewster as opposed to the proposal being presented in Harwich.  

Traffic movement was also a concern. Randy Hart of VHB, the traffic consultants for the developer, said preliminary projections show a total of 685 weekday trips, with the peak morning hour generating 46 vehicles and the peak evening hour 57 vehicles.

MacAskill called the figures into question, asking if the proposed 155 parking spaces is enough.

Jay Walpole lives directly across the Sisson Road from the Chloe’s Path entrance and said his wife has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is related to traffic air pollution and airwave stress. Walpole said additional traffic generated from the development and a planned bus stop will cause more vehicles to stop and accelerate, aggravating his wife’s condition. He said developer Brian Bush stopped in to talk with him about mitigation issues and wanted to mitigate problems on Walpole’s property.

Mitigate your problems on your own property,” Walpole said.

Sandy McLardy questioned Singer’s statement about the wastewater disposal system proposed for the development. McLardy said he called the manufacturer and was told the Amphidome system only cleans to 10 milliliters, not  the 2 milliliters Singer claimed. McLardy said there would be adverse impacts on the Saquatucket Harbor watershed.

MacAskill shut McLardy down, saying his presentation was too scientific, and without the town’s wastewater experts present, the board did not need to hear it.

This is a  nitrogen crisis, and you don’t want to hear it,” McLardy replied.

This is grossly oversize for this property,” said neighbor Peter Gori. The project would only create 24 affordable housing units, Gori said, making it a market-rate housing project masquerading as an affordable housing project.

MacAskill said the board needed more time to discuss the proposal and receive additional input from the public. He said he would schedule another session for the board and the public and then invite the project proponents back before the board.