Officials: Town must fight East Wareham affordable housing project

Apr 11, 2018

Despite state law heavily favoring affordable housing projects, Wareham officials said it’s time to fight a 174-unit complex proposed for East Wareham, no matter the cost.

“It’s not fair and it’s time to stop this, whatever it takes, it has to stop,” Selectman Patrick Tropeano said Tuesday. “It is going to bankrupt us.”

Residents and local officials are gearing up to oppose the apartment complex, slated for a 8.6-acre lot at 3102 Cranberry Highway. Unveiled last year by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners, the project, dubbed Woodland Cove, calls for constructing six, three- and four-story buildings.

Because Woodland Cove is being proposed under the state’s affordable-housing law, known as 40B, the odds appear to favor Dakota Partners.

Under 40B, local zoning regulations are relaxed for housing projects in towns where less than 10 percent of homes or apartments are considered affordable. In Wareham, 7.7 percent of residences are affordable under the state’s definition.

Developers are currently working through the permit process with the Zoning Board of Appeals. Officials likely can’t stop the project, but they may have some tools available to mitigate its impact on town services.

Tropeano said the cost of approval is too high. If 400 children move into the complex, he estimated it would cost the town an additional $4.8 million a year to educate them.

“Where are we going to come up with that money?” he asked.

Yet, Woodland Cove is facing push back from officials in the Onset Fire District. Due to the district’s designation as a separate legal entity from the town, officials there are hopeful the courts allow them to impose the same restrictions that a construction project not protected by 40B must follow.

Selectmen have already officially opposed the project. Many residents have expressed outrage and concern at a series of public hearings held earlier this year. Selectman Chair Alan Slavin said he spoke with the state’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash on Tuesday to express the town’s opposition.

Currently, the decision rests with the Zoning Board of Appeals. If the board accepts the application, the Onset Fire District is prepared to deny permits to tie into the water system. Following that, the developers and local officials could find themselves in court.