Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lexington Planning Board Meeting - Predevelopment Activity: Hanover Development & Belmont Country Club

Lexington Planning Board Meeting
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Selectmen’s Meeting Room, Town Office Building,
1625 Massachusetts Avenue
7:00 PM

Agenda is here.
Site Plan is here.
The Hanover Company meeting presentation is here.

The item of interest is Predevelopment Activity: Belmont Country Club & Hanover Development (7:30 PM). I'm writing this as the meeting is being live-streamed on LexMedia on Verizon Channel 37 (Thank you LexMedia!) I missed some of the detail of speakers during Public Comment; omissions and errors are mine - apologies in advance.

Appears to be a standing room only meeting. Chair Timothy Dunn called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM and announced that he would take up the Hanover Project at 7:30.

Planning Board Chair, Timothy Dunn (Dunn): Board is having an early discussion about this project in advance of filing under new zoning bylaw. Could file in late December and there would be a Public Hearing in January. A report would have to be written up and a recommendation provided to Town Meeting (TM). TM requires a 2/3 vote to approve. Under first right of refusal, if project passes TM, it comes back before the Planning Board (PB) .Tonight is an opportunity to provide feedback to the proponents. Will begin with a presentation from proponents.

Quick intro by Mark Vaughn, Attorney; introduces David Hall and Steve Dazo (sp?) of Hanover Development. 

Mark Vaughn (Vaughn): Looking forward to dialogue. Planning for an age-restricted (55+) property, 18 acres  at Watertown Street/Route 2 exchange. Belmont Country Club (BCC) is very interested in acquiring and developing the property, as a seller and as a neighbor (to Lexington). BCC has entered into an agreement with Hanover. Our plans are very much preliminary at this time. No plans developed as yet; very much at the conceptional. Looking at maintenance-free living at an age-restricted property. That segment of our population (55+) is without question the fastest growing - this project could help fill that void. Introduces David Hall

David Hall (Hall): He's a development partner with Hanover Co. Hanover wants to be open and transparent with the Town. Want to introduce our company [by way of slide presentation]:

  • Hanover is based in Houston TX; has developed over 40,000 high-end, luxury properties all over the country.
  • Also want to go over what we have done in Boston: Over 4,000 apartments all over Boston. Nearest ones in Hanover/Cambridge Park. Multiple projects in Towns - Westwood, Needham.
  • Interested in developing two parcels of about 18 acres, total. Parcel A is a smaller parcel, east side of Winter St (used for storage and maintenance by BCC). Parcel B is larger, wooded, virgin forest.

Here's the concept of the plan - it's not the plan were filing with the Town, but the framework - looking at circulation, visuals from club. May resemble the plan we ultimately file with the Town, but this isn't it, yet.

  • 4-story wood frame bldgs with parking below the buildings.
  • Parcel B is 161 units (?); great amenities, pools, gyms
  • Not sure how the two parcels will work together - no answer on that yet
  • Age-restricted, very high-end, luxury homes; customized somewhat;

We recognize the school-age enrollment issue in Lexington; we believe something like 90% of the units will be child-free...Keep up on your good progress on 10%+ of low-income housing.
Recognize that it impacts Golden and Bowman Avenues [north of the green area shown in the embedded link for BCC].

Issues identified to address:

  • Number of school-aged children
  • Neighborhood impacts
  • Traffic & circulation (will do a very thorough study before filing plan)
  • Utility connections
  • Affordable housing
  • Mitigation

We are in a period of due diligence. Recognize it's a controversial project. Project Site Development and Use Plan (PSDUP) will involve multiple meetings with this board and other boards. We're going to be open and transparent as we consider

Charles Hornig, PB (Hornig): Very much the start of the process. I believe you've heard about the very real affordable housing component. If 55+ turns out not to be feasible, would you look at putting another project on the site?

Hall: We need you not to buy it. We need TM to pass it. The BCC would probably leave it forested. No assisted living-care facility, or shopping.

Hornig: based with our past experience, you're being aggressive and sometimes these things take more time than you may like.

Richard Canale, PB (Canale): We're a popular group, but we don't always have a packed audience at our meetings. What kind of outreach have you had with immediate neighbors?

Hall: None as yet, because we wanted to have this meeting first. I will come to kitchen tables. No limit to how many meetings. Small and private; large and public.

Canale: Each of these sites would require an emergency access (not showing that tonight), have you considered it? Also, reconfiguring the state highway? [RC asks this with apparent incredulity - or, at least, he's amused at the thought!]

Hall: We don't have complete answers. Need some sort of emergency egress, we think we can do with a split driveway...

Canale: The BCC has no interest in cutting across any of their fairways for access, I assume...

Hall: Correct.

Canale: This is zoned: Residential. Have you done the required "how many people could fit on the parcels"?

Hall: Parcel A = 5 homes. Parcel B = 14-16 homes.

Canale: One of the things that will come up for sure, the Town doesn't get the "right of first refusal" if zoned as Residential. Have you looked at the numbers on zoning for Residential and for high density? If TM rezones it, it's a higher calculation...have you done that?

Hall: We've negotiated a Price/Permitted Unit with BCC - it's a private agreement that we won't disclose. Agreement will be drawn.

Canale: In past developments, with this size project, the Town looks at 25% for affordable housing.

Hall: If 25%, friendly 41B

Ginna Johnson, PB (GJ): I may be the first to say that I feel this is too many units. The scale is large. Up to you to really make a case. For almost 2 yrs we've talked about senior housing being a need; affordability is a big part. Assisted-living development at a range of scales would be more interesting. Want to make aware, on aesthetic, this is a dark rural stretch, massive stretch making for a beautiful entry. Our gateways have been assaulted. This is local knowledge for you to consider. Things that may work in Texas may not be valued here. This has a long way to go. Thank you for listening. I have not heard a peep about transit: Age-restricted project, have you considered mass transit...? Need a responsible, well-designed project that gives seniors access to mass transit.

Canale: What gives you any sense that 2/3 of TM would approve this? Make your best argument.

Hall: Recognize that we're at the beginning of the proposal. There is a need for senior housing; somewhat mitigated impacts. Unique situation when a country club would sell their land. It is on the edge of Lexington. We're assuming a high tax rate for the Town. [Meaning, more revenue].

Vaughn: Economic return would be substantial. We see this as a good, sensible alternative. [To virgin, wooded forest??]

Dunn: Have you looked yet at market rate units - average rents?

Hall: Cambridge Park rent is about $3,000 - range of $2,500-5,000. This project could be $1,800 to $4,000 in rent/mo

Dunn: As for your contract with BCC - at what point does that become impractical?

Hall: Anything between 220-240 units or the BCC will leave it as is.

Dunn: Numbers in the rent - concerned about the actual costs to seniors. 40% of Lexington seniors are cost-burdened already. I'm struggling to find a reason why the Town would take on the added risk. Is there a reason why the 161-unit is so small?

Hall: The serpentine driveway is going around a hill. BCC wanted a "green belt" between the holes.

Canale: 10% of units = units could potentially have school-age children

Vaughn: With potential school-age children: 10% affordable, at least one occupant needs to be 55...

Canale: In general, when looking at affordable units, we have the responsibility of mixed bedroom size. I assume that is your intention?

Hall: It is.

Chair Dunn opens for Public Comment. We have received a large number of comments/emails already. Please speak for no more than 3 minutes. Will take about an hour's worth of comments.

1. David Kanter, Lexington Capital Expenditures Committee: Regarding school-age children, have you had experience with considering some number of school-age children? What is your presumption of them in the 10% distribution? We had a project a few years back where a "mitigation fund" was provided by developer, would lead to a payment to the Town, as an offset to the impact of school-children. How do you document and validate? Audit and verify?

The Hanover Co: We manage these projects based on unit size and limit school-age children. We believe 90% of units will not have school-age children living there. Then, the question becomes, of the remaining 10%, how many will become school-age children? Those units still require at least one occupant to be age 55 and over. Much lower propensity. We will provide data. We've not done an age-restricted in Boston, as yet. Operate as we always operate. We will work with the Town on a monitoring program.

2. Lauren Capatanie (sp?), Belmont: We love where we are, except for the quagmire at commuting times. How will you work with the Town of Belmont?

The Hanover Co: We recognize we're going to have to do a traffic study. With this age group, there's a substantial number of trips but not at the commuting times per day. No way to widen the road.

3. Belmont resident: What street are we talking about? How many people total? How will the two buildings connect - with an overpass?

The Hanover Co: Street is in Lexington. Could be 500-600 people. No sidewalks. Substantial amenities: Library. Gym. There will be plenty to do. Residents are not likely to drive on and off the campus. The area is not pedestrian friendly. There will be shuttles and programs throughout the day: to the mall, to cultural events. Not sure about how to connect - not an overpass, perhaps a tunnel; not sure.

4. Bijan Afshartous, Lexington TMM Pct 2: Surprised about this meeting. Running out of space for our school-aged children in schools. Concerned about the impact on our schools.

5. Bill Ford, Arlington: The majority of Golden Avenue is in Arlington. We're concerned about traffic. If Golden Avenue is extended, it's going to be a disaster area for Route 2. Please contact Arlington. I just found out about this project and I don't think the Town knows about it yet. It's Arlmont Village and it will be impacted.

6. Jenny Richlin, Lexington: You seem pretty confident that you can restrict the population. Have you done it in other states? Have you ever sold one of your developments - is it age-restricted in perpetuity? At beginning of presentation you said that this project wasn't fully planned - I'm confused about how this works.

The Hanover Co: I'm familiar with other projects in MA where it is allowed, for example, on the Cape. As long as 80% are established as age-restricted (HOPPA), it can be done. The zoning is permanent. The age-restriction is permanent. This was the framework we used to present to Belmont (98%-2% approval). They did ask us to address the density. We will have to go back to BCC before we present a plan to the Town.

7. Resident from Pct 2, Belmont: Sad that BCC is doing this. Winter street is very different now than 30 years ago. Implore you to do your traffic study first.

8. Resident, Peacock Farm Lexington: I feel I'm not anti-development, but your plan is extremely concerning. Small fraction of people are here tonight; if this meeting were not happening in summer, there would be many more. I have real concerns. The school-age children capacity issues are real issues with real impact. Impact on surrounding land and neighbors is going to be really significant. Housing isn't going to remain at the same level.

9. James Ferris, Belmont: I share the concerns about traffic. Problems at Concord Avenue in Belmont and at Mass Avenue in Lexington (at Wilson's Farm). Work with all of the Planning Boards in Belmont, Lexington, Arlington.

The Hanover Co: Need to do the traffic study and engage with Arlington, Belmont, Lexington. With age-restriction, we feel it isn't going to be as dire as some may otherwise think or suggest, but we're fully committed to ascertain the impacts and how to mitigate with in-depth analysis.

10. Steve Heinrich, Lexington TMM Pct3: I want to be sure I understand "right of first refusal": if you decide to go forward to TM and you get 2/3 approval, it is at that time that Lexington gets first refusal, correct? (YES). 2/3 approval is a very high hurdle to get over. Many projects have not been approved. This is going to be very, very hard to get through TM. I don't see this as a viable proposal - it's too big, it's a traffic nightmare - and I'm not even mentioning the impact on the school system. This scale and this project is just too large.

11. Jennifer Page, Belmont TMM PCt3: My concerns - share the strong and rich concerns about traffic on Winter Street - and want to extend that concern to Mill Street. In the traffic study that you do, please include beyond Winter Street. My other concern is beautiful, pure - you said virgin forest - I'm surprised that there is no one here from Conservation - it's a real concern that it would all be gone.

12 Frank Sandy, Lexington TMM Pct 6: There's lots wrong with this project. I want to address Land Use Planning in Lexington. The Town needs to acquire a new school site. We need a large piece of large open land. We should reject this proposal until such time as we acquire a school site.

13. Lexington resident: Concern about Route 2 exit ramp.

14. Sarah Forrester, Blossom Street, off Concord Avenue, Lexington: Trees. It's been a very long, dry, hot summer. Oak trees seem to survive. We should do everything to preserve them. Also, developers know we're concerned about school enrollments, yet you think it's OK to discriminate people of a certain age. And, what do you think of people 55+ who do not get up and go to work every day?? You need to revise the way you project who will live here. Is it legal to say they have to be 55 yo and older?

The Hanover Co: I apologize. I meant no offense to any age group.

15: McCarthy of Belmont: Is the presentation going to be made public?

Dunn: We will make the PPT available on our website.

16: Lilly Yen: This development will bring in $5M+ in revenue, but what do we lose in process and gain in problems?

17. Resident of Golden Avenue, Lexington: I think we will get the brunt of the impact.

Dunn: What is the situation with water and sewer?

The Hanover Co: all utilities will have to come under existing lines at Golden Avenue, with an inter-municipal agreement. We have to have utilities or we don't have a project.

Canale: Our feedback is to help you. Should you decide to proceed: critical convos with Belmont, MassDOT, that there be sidewalks and bicycles - could be a good place for a meandering sidewalk...the other part is kind of unfortunate to come in with this many guess is most folks in TM will be able to make the argument that the Town will be more worse off as a result. Yes, we do need senior housing; yes, we need affordable housing, but not luxury apartments; something teachers could afford. Try to get a better understanding of what Lexington wants in their senior housing.

Johnson: I heard you specifically say that path connections would not be permitted by the BCC...I think that is unfortunate and is an essential amenity for your residents.

Hall: To keep on track for spring TM - we need a sketch plan by October; traffic numbers, typography, if you're aiming for spring TM.

End of Public Comments ~ 9:00 PM

This post was edited to correct names and to include the project site plan and meeting presentation.