Wareham Zoning Board of Appeals requests sewer, water studies regarding planned affordable housing project

May 10, 2018

The Zoning Board of Appeals wants to see how a massive affordable housing complex in East Wareham will impact traffic, sewer and water systems in a bid to force developers to reduce the project’s size.

On Wednesday, representatives from Dakota Partners met again with board members during what will be lengthy hearing required to secure a “comprehensive permit.” The permit relaxes local regulations on the project under the state’s affordable housing law, known as 40B.

Slated for 3102 Cranberry Highway near the Red Brook Road intersection, the project was announced last year by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners. Plans call for constructing six, three- and four-story apartments along with a community building, open space area and parking.

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, zoning regulations are curtailed 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, board members learned that it may be possible to request the project be scaled down in size, provided they can show it will strain sewer and water capacity.

“You need to point to specific project impacts that require the need for the reduction,” said Paul Haverty, a consultant hired to assist the zoning board navigate the complex approval process.

Board members also learned that the Water Pollution Control Facility does have enough capacity for the project. However, it’s unclear if pumping stations and other infrastructure can handle the additional waste. A study will be done to determine if upgrades are required.

Potential traffic issues sparked outrage. The hearing became heated at one point with several people speaking out of turn, prompting Chair Nazih Elkallassi to call for order.

Selectman Alan Slavin noted that a major overhaul of a nearly 2-mile stretch of Cranberry Highway by the state near the project wasn’t planned with the complex in mind.

Lucille Dodson, a frequent, vocal opponent of the project, chastised the board, saying traffic safety should be a major concern.

“I’m telling you, if you do not reduce the number of [apartment] units you will have blood on your hands,” said Dodson.

Elkallassi said the board could not deny the permit due for traffic safety reasons.

The hearing was continued to June 13 at 6:30 p.m. Board members will likely review the sewer, traffic and water studies at that time.