Zoning Board approves affordable housing development

Reprinted from Dartmouth Week

After more than two years of negotiations and hearings, the proposed 288-unit “Dartmouth Woods II” affordable apartment complex near the intersection of State and Reed roads is one step closer to breaking ground.

On March 10, the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted to issue a comprehensive permit to developer First Dartmouth LLC under the state’s chapter 40B affordable housing law.

The law allows developers to bypass certain municipal zoning requirements if the town’s affordable housing stock is below ten percent.

“We’ve spent a lot of time negotiating numbers,” said Karis North, special counsel representing the town. “I believe we got the best deal we could get — [it’s] a solid, comprehensive comprehensive permit.”

Currently, Dartmouth has 980 affordable units — or 7.9% of the housing stock.

According to the plan, the complex will consist of 16 multi-unit buildings with garden style apartments and 16 buildings with townhouse style duplex units.

Of those 288 units, 72 (25%) will be classified as “affordable” — restricted to households with incomes at or below the 80% of area median income, according to the Town of Dartmouth.

Under the initial 2018 plans, maximum rents would be $1,133 for the two-bedroom and $1,309 for the three-bedroom affordable units.

The remaining units would be offered at market rates, ranging from $1,484 for the two-bedroom units to $2,000 for the three-bedroom units.

Nearly $1 million will be needed for sewage work on the site — half of which will be funded by the town.

Under Massachusetts law, infrastructure improvements for 40B projects are the responsibility of the community.

Zoning Board Member Michael Medeiros wondered at a Feb. 24 meeting if the applicants could contribute more, noting his concern about the project “placing a burden on the taxpayers of this town.”

“Ultimately, that’s the cost that’s going to be imposed on us,” he said. “And it’s going to translate to higher tax rates for everybody.”

North noted that the Select Board is aware of how much the town will need to fund the project, adding that there are opportunities for grants.

Since the first hearings began in 2018, the Zoning Board has hired traffic, stormwater, and environmental consultants to work out any potential issues with the sites.

Officials expressed concerns with potential issues surrounding the reuse of any leftover building materials from a potential demolition of Joe’s Used Cycles — the lot where the proposed complex would be built.

In the 1970s, hundreds of drums containing toxic pollutants were discovered to have been stored and dumped on the property by a company called H&M Drum.

There have also been documented instances of releases of toxic chemicals on the property. According to Board Chair Halim Chouba, there is still some contamination within the walls.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, North assured the Board that before demolition, an engineer would conduct a hazardous materials assessment of the building to check for contamination, adding that any hazardous materials would likely be disposed of.

As for any possible traffic issues, a 2018 study found that the development would have a minimal impact on traffic in the area.

Now approved, the permit will be filed with the town clerk, followed by a 20-day appeal period.

“After more than two and a half years of review — we do have the decision here,” Chouba said. “It’s a challenging site, but I feel comfortable with all the reviews.”