Dozens voice opposition to proposed affordable housing development

Jun 14

“How many people are here to speak about the proposed 40B project?” asked Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum at Tuesday’s meeting.

Several dozen hands went up.

“Is there anybody here in favor of this project?” Teitelbaum followed up.

The packed room was still.

Within the next few days, Teitelbaum will be submitting a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development based on comments he received at the meeting.

Many people addressed the board with their concerns about the project, which would build a 174-unit affordable housing development at 3102 Cranberry Highway in East Wareham.

One passionate community member was Lucille Dodson, who read a letter stating problems she sees with the project proposed by Dakota Partners.

Dodson said the housing development would lead to an even more congested intersection of Red Brook Road. Dodson suffered a concussion after a car accident in that intersection and was concerned that increased traffic would cause a similar situation for others.

Peter Acciavatti agreed and added traffic is already “ridiculous” at the intersection.

“It looks like Las Vegas,” Acciavatti said.

Dodson also said the development, which would have 32 one-bedroom, 122 two-bedroom and 20 three-bedroom apartments, will be a strain on the sewage treatment plant, the fire and police departments and the schools.

“I am not going to see our neighborhood and our town go backwards,” Dodson said.

Another issue raised was the infrastructure in Wareham, which resident Debbie Ito said she believes is not equipped to handle an influx of people.

“This neighborhood was built as a vacation neighborhood, not with a population increase in mind,” Ito said. The demand on the town's infrastructure would make the housing development unsustainable, Ito said.

Under state law Chapter 40B, zoning regulations are relaxed for developers in towns where less than 10 percent of housing stock is considered affordable. Currently, Wareham has 7.7 percent affordable housing, according to Teitelbaum. This housing development would add roughly 2 percent more.

Some people who spoke at the meeting said Wareham is already doing enough to provide affordable housing in the community.

“We should let the other towns catch up to us,” said Gordon Foote. “We’ve done a fine job.”

Teitelbaum added Wareham could be asked to have more than 10 percent affordable housing once it reaches this point to make up for other towns in the area that offer very few affordable options.

Others cited potential increases in drug activity and crime in the area. Some were concerned that the housing built will not be a pleasant place to live.

“This isn’t housing,” said Wareham resident Monica Montgomery. “It’s warehousing.”

The Selectmen voted on each item that would be put in the letter to the housing department this week. Items in the final letter to the state include the history of similar projects in Wareham, the size of the project, the financial impact on taxpayers and the town’s feeling of inadequate recognition for its existing affordable housing options.

Selectman Alan Slavin said the town does not have the ability to say no directly to the developers. He said sending this letter saying “we’re not going to have skin in the game” might be the most effective measure.

Dodson said she plans to protest the project and hopes to form a committee to educate people about its shortcomings.

“If you’re against the project, be a voice,” Dodson said. “Wareham is the gateway to Cape Cod, not the armpit.” Dodson said she plans to attend every meeting on the matter.

Once the town sends the letter, the 30-day comment letter phase will be over. The state will consider the comments made by the board and whether to issue a project eligibility letter to allow the developer to move forward to the Zoning Board of Appeals application.

Teitelbaum said since the state likes to see that projects have local support, they may reconsider if they should issue the project eligibility letter since the town has so many concerns.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to send the letter with the concerns discussed to the state.

The full letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development will be posted on the town’s website at www.wareham.ma.us.