Thursday, November 4, 2010

Massachusetts votes NO! on ballot question 2

As surprising as the election results were in Massachusetts, the one result that was positive for the Commonwealth was that the people voted to preserve the Affordable Housing Law also known as 40(B).

I campaigned as though my life depended on the results and as I spoke to many potential voters it was clear that most were confused by the disingenuous explanation put forth by the author of the referendum. Some had no clue that there was such a question even on the Ballot. Many disliked 40(B) due to misinformation and were receptive after a short but accurate explanation. Most, by one way or the other, voted to keep the Law as better than none although most agree that it is not perfect.  Even Holliston voted in the majority to keep Affordable Housing.  An endorsement that I would like to accept personally as a thumbs up on Cedar Ridge Estates.

So now Green View Realty has survived an unexpected milestone added to the many that were known at the outset and while there are more to go I believe we are past the worst and most onerous of them.

The economy still looms as a significant cause for hesitation however the bottom of a decline and beginning of a recovery is a good time to proceed as new home construction is a leading economic indicator and it is the catalyst that fuels a recovering economy.

While the Town of Holliston may pursue their justifiable opportunity to appeal the decision of the Superior Court the case they present will be the same repetitive argument that the Town has been thrice proffered and twice lost.

Smart money will ignore this “appeal without potential” and continue to advance the project toward the next milestone: that of shovel ready.

Green View Realty will now execute the next steps preparing the project for a start of construction by the spring of 2012.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vote NO on ballot Question 2

The state of Massachusetts is faced with a serious attack on an important existing Law that provides housing for our working population. The Affordable Housing Law is working despite the claims of some that complain about the abuses that are inherent in all of human society. Outside larger cities the Affordable Housing Law MA GL 40(b) has created 58,000 homes across the state and is responsible for approximately 80% of new affordable housing over the past decade. The 12,000 homes in the pipeline that have already been locally approved would add $10 billion in economic activity and 50,000 jobs that come with them. Please Vote No on Question 2.

It means that your children may someday be able to “Afford” to live in the small communities in Massachusetts. First, affordable (or workforce housing) means people making between $45,000 and $65,000 would qualify for this housing…..young teachers, firemen, police, public works folks, young people just starting their families, and people who work ordinary jobs. It is important to note that Chapter 40B does not cost the tax payer anything. It is a function of the development process and can give people a chance at home ownership. This is not to be confused with Low Income Housing that is taxpayer subsidized.

Some people have stated that “projects get jammed down local communities throats,” during a 40B project permitting. Understanding how our local planning boards have made certain that the development process is so expensive and time-consuming that finding a way to build affordable housing is pretty much impossible in Massachusetts without some reasonable anti snob laws.

The plans submitted in a Chapter 40B proposal request relief from some extraordinarily stringent local requirements—far beyond state codes—including 2 to 3 acre zoning, doubling Title V (septic system) requirements, doubling all wetlands setbacks and recharge areas.

The general thinking in Massachusetts is “I live here, but I don’t want anyone else to move in and burden my town.” Massachusetts is one of the only states in the union that has a declining population, specifically young people. Check out the articles in the Boston Globe and the CSMonitor to see the concern about decrease in a balanced workforce. Chapter 40B is designed to counter the “snob zoning” we have carefully put in place throughout the Commonwealth, and it is working.

All the candidates for governor agree on this question and our local news paper, the Metrowest News, speaks to some very compelling data. The Massachusetts Chapter 40B By-Law has been held up nationally as a template for a fair and equitable way to provide housing for a wide variety of incomes, including rental property and homes for first time home buyers. PLEASE VOTE NO ON QUESTION 2!!! We need homes for our children and growth for our state.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hollistion files yet another Appeal

October 7, 2010

Today Holliston cast its last chip in its gamble to stop the Cedar Ridge Estates Project. Council for the Town of Holliston filed its request for Appeal to the MA Appeals Court. This filing came by surprise 30 days ahead of schedule.

Attorneys for the Developer Green View Realty received a notice of Appeal from Holliston’s special council on Friday October 8, 2010

The Land Court will now assemble the record and notify both parties when it is assembled. This does not happen overnight and will take some time. It should be faster in this case as the record was bound by the Attorney General previously and there should not be a lot to get together. Once we get this notice that the record is assembled, the Town will have ten (10) days to docket the appeal in the appeals court and the appeals court will (within a couple of days of the docketing of the appeal) issue an order for the filing of briefs. This is usually forty (40) days for the Appellant (the Town) to file a brief and then thirty (30) days for the Appellee (GVR and the Attorney General) to file response briefs.

While this suit is an attempt to overturn the recent Superior Court ruling that upheld the Comprehensive Permit issued by the MA Housing Appeals Committee, the Town’s case makes the same argument that the Town has proffered twice before and lost because they have never been able to prove any of their propaganda, allegations and innuendo that they have used to justify their complaint.

Not to mention that the Town will have spent, somewhat secretly, nearly $200,000.00 to finance their case. Perhaps in these times the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

So now Green View Realty awaits the November Election that poses the most serious threat to the projects viability by the referendum question #2 that has Green View in a pickle between Comprehensive Permit and Building Permit. Hopefully the Voters see the merits of keeping 40(B) intact and fixing it instead of eliminating it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Case Finally Adjudicated

September 10 2010

While the Superior Court Judge issued his decision on count I & II of the three count complaint filed by the Holliston Zoning Board of Appeals a third count had yet to be resolved as the count was a nuisance count thrown into the complaint in an obtuse attempt to get the Land Court court to eliminate the authority of the MA Housing Appeals Committee to issue Comprehensive Permits in Massachusetts.

Perhaps Council for the Town was dumb like a fox, likely knowing that the Courts can't be used to make or create Laws however the Case was delayed for nearly two months while GVR was forced to negotiate with the Plaintiff over the stipulation of removal of the nuisance Count III.

The Council for the plaintiff agreed to let the decision of Count I & II stand if GVR would agree to a stipulation of dismissal "without prejudice" so that the self serving plaintiff Attorney would be able to continue to harass proponents of 40(b) affordable housing projects that he was appealing on behalf of other client Municipalities.

Thus the Court was finally able to issue a complete ruling on this case on September 10 2010. Now the stage was set for an appeal on November 10 2010 just in case the Question 2 referendum question on the November Election Ballot failed to over turn 40(b) Affordable Housing in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Judge Issues Ruling: Land Court Agrees with Developer

Today (June 28, 2010) the MA Land Court issued the decision on, one more attempt, by the Town of Holliston to overturn the MA Housing Appeals Committee's issuance of the comprehensive permit under Chapt 40(b). The comprehensive permit has been issued and affirmed by the States Superior Court. The Town will entitled to appeal the decision to the MA Appeals Court however they have no basis for overturning the Land Court decision and an appeal would be tantamount to a frivolous action. Our Lawyers at Rubin and Rudman assure us that they will fight and prevail over any last gasp effort to stop the project.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Case for Cedar Ridge Estates

By J. Michael Norton 508-879-8800

Should we spend more town funds?

Your Selectmen are going to make a decision and that decision is going to happen soon!

As of April 1, 2010, Holliston has one of the lowest percentages (approximately 4.1%) of affordable housing in Massachusetts. This is despite MA G.L. 40B (the “Comprehensive Permit Law”), which was enacted over forty years ago to resolve this chronic problem by setting a goal for at least 10% housing in every community to be classified as affordable. As you may be aware, Green View Realty, LLC (GVR) proposed a two hundred (200) unit affordable housing development on a parcel of land located off Marshall and Prentice Streets in Holliston called Cedar Ridge Estates This development has been approved by MassHousing, the Housing Appeals Committee (“Committee”) and most recently, the Land Court. have approved, ,

When completed, the project will accomplish three main goals: 1) creation of sorely needed affordable housing in Holliston; 2) complete remediation of historic environmental contamination at the property; and 3) repayment of costs, in excess of one million dollars, sustained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for past remedial activities and to assess environmental conditions caused not by GVR, but by a former owner of the property. Despite the hyperbole and misunderstanding of conditions surrounding the property and this project, the property should and can be remediated fully and occupied safely while accomplishing these goals.

In 2004, the Town of Holliston sought, at the suggestion of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), to solicit bids for a builder to purchase and develop the property. As part of the bid, any builder would need to offer an amount sufficient to settle a super lien placed on the land by the DEP for DEP’s past cleanup actions at the property. The Town of Holliston also would receive $250,000 to reimburse it for the cost of removing tires that the former owner, Charlie Bird, accumulated at the property. It is important to note that neither GVR nor the Trustees of the property had anything to do with the environmental issues at the property.

Following the issuance of the request for bids, the Town voted not to rezone the property for construction of age-restricted homes. With the withdrawal of the request for bids, the Trustees of the property sought to find a suitable development plan that would meet the three goals above. They elected to construct homes under the Comprehensive Permit Law in which twenty-five percent (25%) of the residences would be classified as affordable housing. GVR and the Trustees hoped that this would allow for clean up the historic environmental issues at the property while providing affordable homes to teachers, firefighters, civil servants and single mothers in the Town of Holliston. Under this new plan, the property would become a way for these hard-working men and women to live in the town where they work, and in many cases, grew up. Further, this plan would allow for clean up of the solid waste and other contamination at the property pursuant to DEP regulations, and provide funds to pay back the state for the costs it incurred to initially respond to the conditions at the property.

Following a protracted public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the ZBA rejected the GVR project and denied the application for a Comprehensive Permit. GVR appealed the Town’s decision to the Housing Appeals Committee (the Committee). The Committee, after a lengthy hearing and review of all of the evidence in the matter, found that the Town’s objections to the proposed project did not outweigh the need for affordable housing and that the project as proposed would comply with all state and federal laws to clean up and develop the property safely. The Committee issued the Comprehensive Permit to GVR. In response, the Town appealed the Committee’s decision to the Land Court, where the Court upheld the decision.

I repeatedly ask myself the question, “How do the leaders of the Town initiate a process to develop the property, but then suddenly contend that the land was contaminated and could not support residential housing?” Though I do not understand their logic, it is clear that Town officials want to continue to fight this project. Rather than receive $250,000.00 pursuant to the request for bids, the Town has already spent well over $150,000.00 and quite possibly near $200,000.00 in an attempt to halt a project that both the Committee and the Land Court deemed appropriate. Both the Committee and the Land Court saw that GVR’s project will benefit Holliston. GVR will clean up the property with the guidance and oversight of the DEP, making the Town a safer place for all residents. In fact, the project is classified as a Public Involvement Site, and therefore, all proposed work will be presented to the Town and public for input and comment. In the end, Holliston will have a clean property and substantially more affordable housing. Not to mention our local economy could surely benefit from $70,000,000.00 of commerce where revenue will contribute to local businesses in the Town. New construction leads to jobs, income, tax revenue, fees and an improved local economy.

As residents, we often have little say on how the day-to-day activities of our government run. We have little to say as to whether any project should be permitted and built. I do not know how Holliston would vote on Cedar Ridge Estates given the opportunity. However, I invite you to learn more about this project and its benefits at our website After learning the facts and cutting through the exaggeration and misinformation surrounding the project and the property, I ask that you judge the value of Cedar Ridge Estates for yourself. If what you learn inclines you to support this project, as I anticipate that it will, I urge you to contact the Board of Selectmen and ask that they stop fighting the project. Your Selectmen are going to make a decision and that decision is going to happen soon. Call them, email them, tell them you are paying attention and you want a say on an issue that could positively change the community in which we live.