Briggs Pulls Spring Street Project

            Longtime Marion-based developer Sherman Briggs called The Wanderer on October 21 to say he has pulled his application for a market-rate, residential development that he had been planning for Spring and Mill streets near the Brew Fish restaurant.

            “I just got tired of the innuendos,” said Briggs, asserting that Planning Board members “had nothing but negative (comments) the last time (engineer) Steve Poole was there.”

            Briggs acknowledged Marion Planning Board Chairman Will Saltonstall’s concern over the density of the residences. “Fine, we’ll go with the 42 (units),” he said, alluding to the affordable housing alternative. “All these bylaws are utilized to stop the quality growth.”

            Planning Board administration confirmed Briggs’ action but withheld comment on the situation. Likewise, Town Administrator Jay McGrail declined comment for this story.

            Briggs told The Wanderer he intends not to bring a residential development proposal for that site back to the Town of Marion until the spring. His frustration with the town’s vetting process for his 28-unit townhouse-style proposal is based mainly on a zoning bylaw that requires the incorporation of affordable units or a $150,000 contribution to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust.

            On September 14, Briggs attended the Affordable Housing Trust’s regularly scheduled public meeting and, given the floor, used it to speak at length on why he believes the town desperately needs market-rate housing rather than more developments that fall into the category of 40B affordable housing.

            Market-rate housing, he said, costs the developer more but increases by tenfold the revenue generated, thanks to property tax and ratepayers for water and sewer.

            When the 120-unit affordable-housing Heron Cove development on Route 6 near the Wareham town line is complete, Briggs estimates that Marion will be well over the required 10-percent with some 250 affordable housing units, including 70 at Little Neck Village and miscellaneous others around town.

            Briggs insists he does not want to make his an affordable housing development, which would likely mean two apartment buildings at far greater density that can only be vetted by the Zoning Board of Appeals and state authorities. Estimating a site cost of $800,000 to build a market-rate development, not counting the $150,000 check he would be required to write to the AHT, Briggs said it would only cost $300,000 for him to build affordable housing on that site.

            “I’m educating myself in the way this economy is going to go. Guys who do this all the time are saying apartments are going to be a hot item the next five to 10 years,” he said.

            Briggs was not surprised to see the town vote against the rezoning of land along Route 6, before which developer Matt Zuker gave an overview of his proposal for a market-rate, multi-family residential development. Briggs cited the five years it took for his project to become possible via a zoning change and 10 years he says it took the town to approve plans for the Route 6 Dunkin’ store.

            Unlike a few weeks ago when Briggs threatened to pull his project, he does not expect town officials to reach out this time.

            “I’m trying to get the town to recoup some financial benefit from these projects, and they’re not getting it,” he said.

            Briggs said he hopes that Marion’s hire of a new town planner will lead to a change in the bylaw.

            “I went to Town Meeting four times. It’s too bad a project like mine when it comes in couldn’t stand on its own merit,” he said. “It’s too hard to get there, and that’s the shame of it. … When you go into the 40B (affordable housing) statute … it’s so much easier, but you don’t get the revenue and you don’t meet the seniors’ needs that they so much want.”

By Mick Colageo

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