East Wareham affordable housing project hearing postponed moments after medical emergency

Apr 11, 2018

A hearing on a massive, controversial affordable housing project in East Wareham was postponed Wednesday moments after the developer's attorney suffered an apparent heart attack.

Attorney Peter Freeman, representing the project's developer Dakota Partners, was taken away in an ambulance from the Multi-Service Center as a crowd of nearly 40 waited before a Zoning Board of Appeals of meeting

“Apparently, he had a heart attack downstairs,” a stricken Nazih Elkallassi, the board’s chair, told the crowd at the meeting’s start.

The hearing was postponed to April 25. Unveiled last year by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners, the project, dubbed Woodland Cove, calls for constructing six, three- and four-story buildings.

The board was slated to discuss a “comprehensive permit” for the project. Under the state’s affordable-housing law, known as 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. According to Paul Haverty, a consultant hired to assist the zoning board, board members have until Aug. 27 to vote. If approved, the permit will allow the developers to build under fewer zoning restrictions. Because Woodland Cove is being proposed under 40B, officials have little recourse to oppose the project.

However, members of the Onset Board of Water Commissioners, are taking steps to impose some restrictions on the project. Selectmen have officially come out against the project and have expressed their concerns with state officials.

The night before Wednesday’s hearing, Selectman Patrick Tropeano forcefully opposed the project, saying it would “bankrupt” the town. Tropeano said he was with Freeman shortly before he was taken away by ambulance. Both were sitting in the hallway outside of the meeting room.

“He seemed OK and then must have felt some distress because he went downstairs, maybe to get some fresh air,” said Tropeano.

He expressed concern for Freeman following the incident.

“However you feel about the project, he’s a person who has people that love him,” said Tropeano. “Our sympathies are with him and his family.”