The Rochester Board of Selectmen on January 14 approved allowing developer Steen Realty Development Corp to take the preliminary steps in the state permitting process to build 208 units on Cranberry Highway, a project known as a 40R affordable housing development.
After a well-attended public forum on the proposed development earlier in January, selectmen and the Planning Board continue to keep residents updated and informed on the impacts of the 40R and the benefits of supporting the plan’s advancement. Rather than opposing the chance to fulfill the state’s required 10 percent affordable housing minimum, the selectmen hope to advance in a way that would allow the town to work cooperatively with developer Ken Steen towards a mutually agreeable project as opposed to keeping Rochester vulnerable to a potential 40B development that could circumvent local zoning and building regulations.
Town Counsel Blair Bailey recommended that the board vote to allow Steen to begin the state permitting process with an application for preliminary determination of eligibility for 40R zoning with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, which by no means grants final approval for the project to proceed.
“The final say is on the Town Meeting floor,” Bailey said, as residents will be asked to adopt special zoning to create a “smart growth overlay district” to accommodate the high-density residential 40R construction.
“It all needs to start at this point,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Greenwood “Woody” Hartley said.
Some residents are still wondering if the Town could say no to the 40R, as one resident asked that night, and of course, Bailey stated, it could. If Town Meeting denied the smart growth zoning article, then the 40R project would “go away,” he said.
“But it wouldn’t prevent the developer from coming back with a 40B,” Bailey said. A 40B would mean the project would receive a “blanket waiver,” meaning the developer would only have to comply with the state’s regulations. “And since we’re under 10 percent [affordable housing], they’re going to get approved by the state anyway,” Bailey said.
Rochester currently has just 0.4 percent affordable housing. The 40R would put the town just above the 10 percent requirement.
As Bailey pointed out, the Town of Marion fought for years to prevent Steen from developing the Marion Village Estates 40B, “And it ended up pretty much the way it was proposed in the beginning,” said Bailey. “The 40R is a joint process where the Town retains its say in Site Plan [Review] … but there’s also financial benefits.”
To cover the added cost an increase in population would make on demands for municipal services and education, Rochester could see funding in the ballpark of about $1 million in one-time payments, along with the increased revenue from excise and property taxes.
According to Hartley, the property slated for development has been on the market for seven years. Property owner A.D. Makepeace has stated that it has already turned away four 40B proposals for the site, preferring instead to support a project that would provide relative benefits to Rochester.
With the board’s affirmative vote that night, Bailey pointed out that once the permitting process is underway, Steen will create a website specifically for the project that will share details and progression as well as a timeline, and links will be provided on the Town’s website.
Also during the meeting, the board reconvened the nuisance dog hearing for Liberal Teixeira of North Street that was continued from November 17, and considered two options Bailey prepared to address the most recent violations of a past order and the latest complaints lodged by Teixeira’s neighbors.
A prior order restricted Teixeira from keeping more than three dogs on the property at any time, and revoked the kennel license for his dog breeding business. Neighbors enjoyed the peace of nearly three years without the alleged incessant dogs barking, until this summer when the barking resumed and neighbors reported more than three dogs and a litter of puppies running free on the property. Animal Control was called on more than one occasion, resulting in the latest nuisance dog hearing.
“Based on the policies and the findings,” said Hartley, “what I took into consideration was the history of this property and the orders the prior boards have issued.”
The board considered one option prohibiting any dogs on the property (Teixeira currently has three dogs licensed to the home), and a second option reiterating the three dog maximum while including orders to keep all three dogs on a leash and supervised at all times when outdoors, keep the dogs in the house or in an enclosed kennel according to specifications, and to submit to at least three animal control officer inspections annually to ensure compliance.
“I do understand there are ways for anyone to get around anything, but that struck me as the best step for now,” said Hartley, urging the ACO to closely monitor the property. “Any violation will result in an order banning all dogs from being kept at the property.”
“I think this is as firm as we can be at this time,” said Selectman Brad Morse. “Having a lot of history on this one myself for probably eight years now … with this party, so let’s go for this and ask the neighbors that if they have complaints to make sure they notify us.”
“Looks like a reasonable order,” said Selectman Paul Ciaburri. “We’ll go from here.”
In other matters, residents will have noticed by now the presence of pink plastic bags that have been provided by Simple Recycling. Residents can leave these bags filled with used clothing, shoes, and small household items or electronics curbside on their designated recycling day. Hartley encouraged residents to utilize this free service, which in return pays the Town $20 per ton of “soft” recyclable materials collected.
This is money in your pocket,” Hartley said. “The recycle bin is money out of your pocket. It’s better than paying hundreds of dollars per ton.”
“They’ll give you as many bags as you need,” Szyndlar said.
Instructions were given along with the bags and further information is printed on the side of the bags as well.
The board appointed Kevin Thompson and Léna Bourque to the Conservation Commission after officially accepting the resignation of longtime commission member Laurene Gerrior.
The alcohol sales violation for Lloyd’s Market will be addressed during a public hearing on Tuesday, February 19, that will be scheduled on the agenda for 6:15 pm.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for February 4 at 6:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry