Controversial affordable housing development makes slight changes

May 28, 2020

The developers of Woodland Cove, a controversial affordable housing development set to be built on Cranberry Highway near the intersection with Red Brook Road, unveiled some slight tweaks to their plans at Wednesday’s Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. 

The development was originally set to include 174 apartments, but was scaled down to 150. 

The project has come under intense criticism from town officials and residents, saying the project will tax town resources, including sewer, water, police and schools with the additional residents. Because the project is considered an affordable housing project, it enjoys protections under state law Chapter 40B. Under Chapter 40B, zoning regulations are curtailed for developers in towns where less than 10 percent of homes or apartments are considered affordable.

Rents for the affordable apartments must not exceed state guidelines based upon a renter’s income. In Wareham, 7.7 percent of residences are affordable. Officials estimate if the project were built it would add roughly 2 percent to the amount of affordable housing in town.

Because Woodland Cove is proposed under 40B, officials have little recourse to deny it a permit. However, board members are allowed to review the plans and make suggestions to mitigate impacts on traffic, sewer and water infrastructure before issuing a permit. 

In November 2018, the Board of Selectmen filed a lawsuit against both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Dakota Partners, the developers of the project, claiming that the approval of the project was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” according to town counsel Richard Bowen. However, the lawsuit was dismissed due to technical reasons, and no suit is currently pending. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, a representative of the developer showed new plans that adjust the phasing of the project. The community building is now part of the first phase of the project, rather than the second, and access from Red Brook Road is also included in the first phase.

The board approved of the changes.