Lagoon Ridge can move ahead with market-rate homes

Affordable housing is tied up in bureaucratic paperwork.

Eric Peters, attorney for Lagoon Ridge, explains via Zoom why the affordable housing component of the subdivision is not yet approved by the state.

The Lagoon Ridge subdivision will be allowed to build four market-rate houses ahead of getting official approval from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) on its plan for affordable housing for the Oak Bluffs project.

At a planning board meeting Thursday, chair Ewell Hopkins updated board members on the project and the discussions he has had with their attorney and representatives of CapeBuilt, which is developing the 32.5 acres. Lagoon Ridge is the first development in Oak Bluffs approved under the flexible zoning bylaw. The project proposes to build 25 dwelling units on 23 lots.

Eric Peters, an attorney for the project, explained that the paperwork is in the hands of DHCD, and is 95 percent complete. However, four prefabricated homes are ready for shipment from a factory in Pennsylvania, and CapeBuilt would like permission to get the four foundations prepped for their delivery. “We’ve experienced significant delays, and feel this would be appropriate,” Peters said on behalf of his client.

Robert Brennan, a principal with Lagoon Ridge LLC, told the planning board that the project is moving forward without affordable housing subsidies. “That’s the reason we need to get our non-affordables, our market-rates, to fund the affordable units,” Brennan said.

No objections were registered by planning board members to Lagoon Ridge proceeding with the four market-rate homes while they continue through the DHCD process.

In answer to a question from Alan Robillard about whether 55-and-over houses had been removed from the plan, both Hopkins and Brennan confirmed that a review by counsel found that those deed restrictions violated federal housing law.

“We had designed 55-plus units, including one that was single-story living, but all of them had universal design components,” Brennan said. Three of them were even under agreement with buyers, he said. “We were very supportive, and invested time and money in bringing those to market,” he said. “It was an issue that was raised by DHCD, and we were unaware of it, just as the board was and town counsel was. We were unaware of it standing in contradiction of federal fair housing law because it was limited to a subset of units within the subdivision that were not at least 80 percent, which is how the law is written and interpreted.”

When Robillard pointed out that the project was given “bonus lots” for age-restricted units, and asked if those would be removed, Hopkins said there wouldn’t be a penalty, though he called it “most unfortunate” that the concept violated federal law.

“There will be no unit penalties applied to the developer based on this understanding that we cannot impose 55-plus requirements,” Hopkins said. “We don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the town or to the applicant to challenge the number of units based on this realization coming from federal fair housing guidelines.”

Robillard said he could accept that based on the fair effort made by the developer.

Hopkins said there was no vote of the board required on the request by CapeBuilt. He said he would continue to negotiate on behalf of the board and town.

In other business, the board received an update on both the Tabernacle project by the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association and a proposal by Eversource to replace an undersea cable coming to the Island, as well as adding a fifth. Both were just a heads-up that those issues are coming to the board.

On the Tabernacle site plan review, the project is currently before the wastewater commission to determine if the number of bathrooms is acceptable. Board members agreed to wait for that determination before the site plan comes before the board.

Ashley Khatach, who appeared on behalf of the Camp Meeting Association, told the board that the project will move forward whether they get the support from wastewater or not. The association is looking to get all of its permits and approvals in time to perform the construction in the fall.

Meanwhile, Eversource representatives were on hand to introduce the undersea cable project. An official application has not been filed, but Hopkins said it will likely trigger a referral to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Board members were in agreement that they’d like to see the application ahead of that referral.