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40B development sails swiftly along in Edgartown
Lot clearing and site preparation have begun for a 40B development on Upper Main Street in Edgartown, which includes three market-rate and three affordable condominiums. The development is notable because it moved through the town's regulatory and permitting boards with substantial changes along the way, but without the kind of pitched battle opposition organized to fight other affordable housing development in Edgartown.
An artist's rendering of the Morton development, for which site preparation has begun off upper Main Street. Sketch by Helios Design Group
"We made a huge effort to find the right property, and not squeeze too much on it," said Mr. Talerman. He said several changes were made to satisfy concerns, including an agreement to make half of the units affordable. "Given construction costs, it makes it more difficult. It took some money off our bottom line. To us it was worth it."
In its decision on the permit application, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) noted the developer's willingness to modify plans to meet concerns of the regulatory boards, and neighbors. "The Board finds that the Plans, as revised, exhibit sensitivity to surrounding properties and mitigate impacts," the members wrote in their decision. "Particularly, the Board finds that the Applicant worked with the neighboring property owner to mitigate any impacts. When combined with the conditions of this decision, the Board finds that the merits of this project, as shown on the Plans, outweigh any adverse impacts."
This project required fewer zoning exemptions than others that proved more controversial. A waiver was required to allow multi-family units, and one minor setback issue had to be resolved. No wetlands or other protected acreage were factors in the process.
By contrast, the 10-unit Jenney Lane project, just a short distance away, went through a review by town boards, a separate review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission, and after approval, was tied up in litigation for years as neighbors challenged the decisions made by regulatory boards.
Mr. Morton himself faced considerably more opposition from abutting neighbors on another 40B project he is developing, at High Street and Pease's Point Way.
Throughout the hearings for the Upper Main Street project, ZBA members discussed the plans down to small details, including the composition of driveway material, the style of windows, condominium fees, and whether the buildings should be sided with shingles or painted clapboards.
It began as an eight-unit project, with five market-rate and three affordable housing units on the 1.5-acre lot.
According to records of the meetings, Don Angus Jr., speaking on behalf of his parents, Don and Nancy Angus, voiced concern about the project. The Angus home abuts the Upper Main Street property. The family's concerns centered around housing density, the possibility of increased traffic, and the placement of the driveway for the new development. Board members were concerned with the height of the buildings and whether architectural details would fit with other structures in the area.
Over several hearings, the project plans went through a series of transformations. The developer agreed to move the driveway and create a landscaped buffer between the project and the Angus property. He also modified the plans to satisfy the architectural concerns of several board members.
The issue that drew the most attention throughout the process was the number of units and the ratio of affordable to market rate units. At one point, a four-unit project was proposed, with only one affordable housing unit. What finally emerged were two townhouse-style buildings, with two detached garages. One building will have two market-rate condominiums, while the other building will have one market-rate and two affordable units. A third affordable unit will be built over one of the garages. The development will include a total of 14 bedrooms, and space for 12 vehicles using both garage and outdoor parking.
The state 40B statute requires that a minimum of 25 percent of a development be affordable units. One board member said he wants projects developed in Edgartown to exceed the statutory requirements.
"I feel that the 40B statute is very favorable towards the developer," said Richard Knight. "We as a town are fairly vulnerable to having our zoning overturned by developers using the statue. If it's coming to the zoning board of appeals under the flag of affordable housing, we want to see a substantial piece of the development be affordable housing."
The ZBA voted approval of the project by a vote of 4-1. Board chairman Martin Tomassian, and members Carol Grant, Mr. Knight, and Norman Rankow voted to approve. The only dissenting vote was board member Richard Colter.