HARWICH – Representatives of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership conducted an onsite review of the proposed Chole’s Path 96-unit mixed housing development off Sisson Road on Tuesday. The review is the initial step in the state’s determination of the project's eligibility for a comprehensive permit.
Kemah Apartments LLC is proposing the development on a 9.3-acre parcel at the rear of the town’s public safety facilities. The development would include 24 affordable housing units and a commitment to providing eight workforce units.
The project has been the topic of several meetings held by town staff and the board of selectmen over nearly the past year. Selectmen voted 3-2 in mid-November to reject endorsing the project under the state’s Local Initiative Program.
The developer has since filed for a site eligibility determination from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). Approval of an eligibility letter from the agency is a requirement under Chapter 40B for developers to move forward with filing for a comprehensive permit with the local board of appeals.
The MHP review involves an evaluation of the site, the design concept, the feasibility of the proposal, and the appropriateness of the proposal in relation to local housing needs and strategies.
Project proponents and town officials met at the site Tuesday with Michael Busby, a relationship manager with MHP. He said that MHP is soliciting comments from the community, including concerns raised by local boards, officials and other interested parties.
Attorney Andrew Singer, representing Kemah Apartments, said the 96-units are planned in two buildings. There would be parking for 96 vehicles underneath the buildings and additional outside parking. The buildings would be three stories in the front and four stories to the rear with the slope of the land exposing the parking garage.
All the units would be rentals, said Singer. Busby said the state requires that 10 percent of the units have three bedrooms; those are included in the plan, according to Singer. He said a market study has been done, and it indicates the need for one and two bedroom units.
There is a previously approved seven-lot subdivision for the property, said Singer. The road leading into the site was approved and constructed. All state requirements would be met before moving ahead with the development, he said.
There presently exists a Massachusetts Endangered Species Act deeded restriction on a portion of the land. That will be addressed, Singer said.
The developer has hired traffic engineers VHB, Inc. to do a full traffic study for the project, said Singer. There would be a bus stop and sidewalks that would go into Harwich Center, he added.
Regarding neighborhood issues, Busby recommended additional screening be installed along the property lines of five homes along Sisson Road. That has been agreed to, Singer said. Busby also recommended more green space be added to the proposed courtyard in front of the buildings.
When he learned there would be a bike parking room in the development, Busby said that was another plus for the project, calling Harwich is a biking community. He spoke favorably of Chloe’s Path leading into the development.
“Very rarely do we have a road into the site, and that’s a plus,” said Busby.
He emphasized the need to hear from the community. Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said the board has a lengthy packet of information from the several meetings. Busby said the board can request a 15-day extension of the Feb. 9 deadline initially given for the town to make comments.
MacAskill said among the major concerns expressed by the board is the number of units being planned, adding that board members have had questions about the market study conducted to establish the proposed rental rates.
Selectman Julie Kavanagh questioned the developer's use of market rates from off-Cape towns. Busby said he understands the town would want rates from the local area, but Jeff Bush of Kemah Apartments said there was not enough market rate housing information here, so the consultant had to use rates from outside the area.
“There is not a lot of rental housing being created on the Cape,” Busby acknowledged.
Town Administrator Joseph Powers asked about the technical assistance program under MHP that provides grants of up to $15,000 for consulting assistance to the board of appeals when reviewing 40B permits. Harwich should be eligible for a $15,000 grant, Busby said.
It will be at least 90 days before MHP makes a decision to issue a site eligibility letter, said Busby. He encouraged selectmen to apply for a 15-day extension of the Feb. 9 deadline for the town to make comments. He added that he had a meeting scheduled with a group of neighbors.
Those wishing to comment on the proposed development can send correspondence to the town administrator to be included in the town’s filing, or to email MHP directly at www.masshousing.com.