Wareham Zoning Board to review 174-unit housing project's impact on water, sewer

Apr 26, 2018

Wareham water and sewer officials will determine if there is enough capacity to accommodate a controversial 174-unit affordable housing project proposed for East Wareham.

On Wednesday, Zoning Board of Appeals members, who are now overseeing the project’s permit approval process, made the request from representatives for the developer.

“If [water and sewer officials] say we don’t have enough water, and they can back it up with an engineer, I’m not going to waste your time,” Zoning Board Chair Nazih Elkallassi told attorney Peter Freeman, representing the developer.

The project was announced in June by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners. Plans call for constructing six, three- and four-story buildings along with a community building, open space area and parking. The project is slated for 3102 Cranberry Highway, near the Red Brook Road intersection.

Dubbed Woodland Cove, the development will include 106 apartments that are designated as affordable. Rents for those apartments must not exceed state guidelines based upon a renter's income.

Under Chapter 40B, a state law, zoning regulations are relaxed for developers in towns where less than 10 percent of homes or apartments are considered affordable. In Wareham, 7.7 percent of residences are affordable. Officials estimate that 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, they are working to mitigate any issues that may arise if it’s built. That includes determining the impact on the town’s sewer and water systems.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, Dakota Partners will provided additional information to the Onset Water Department, including the estimated average daily water use and maximum daily water use, to help them make that determination. There’s a chance the zoning board could successfully deny a permit if there’s not enough capacity. However, Freeman said he would be prepared to challenge that decision.

During the public hearing, zoning board members also learned that if the project is built it could significantly alleviate Wareham’s affordable housing shortage by imposing a local preference stipulation.

Bill Lockwood, a past chair of the Wareham Housing Authority, said there are 850 people waiting for a chance to move into affordable apartments owned by the authority. He said the wait for veterans is roughly two years and up to 14 years for disabled residents.

Paul Haverty, a consultant hired to assist the zoning board, recommended that information be submitted officially. That would demonstrate a need to state officials to enforce local preference, which could be up to 70 percent of the units in the complex.

“The state will want the town to show the need for a local preference,” said Haverty. “This would be very good evidence to include.”

The public hearing will continue on May 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Multi-Service Center.