As my campaign for Holliston Selectman has moved forward, I have heard many negative and uninformed comments regarding the Cedar Ridge Estates project. I would like to take this opportunity to set the records straight on several issues.
First, I have been asked why I am suing the Town of Holliston. In fact, Green View Realty, LLC (“GVR”), the development company behind Cedar Ridges, is being sued by the Town. Initially, GVR filed an application for the Cedar Ridge Estates project with the Zoning Board of Appeals. After the ZBA denied the project, the Housing Appeals Committee found that the denial was inappropriate and issued the Comprehensive Permit for the project. At his stage, GVR is a co-defendant with the Housing Appeals Committee (represented by the Attorney General). It is actually the Town of Holliston that has initiated two successive litigations in an attempt to overturn the Housing Appeals Committee decision to grant a comprehensive permit for the Cedar Ridge Estates development.
Second, I continue to hear that c. 40B allows the developer to “violate” the Town’s By Laws. This is not the case. A Comprehensive Permit under c. 40B streamlines the zoning process and allows for the construction of affordable housing in municipalities which do not meet the minimum criteria set by the state. In this case, that minimum criteria is to have ten percent of housing units be affordable. Holliston is well be low that threshold. C. 40B allows the developer to waive certain requirements of the local By Laws in order to construct affordable housing. However, this does not mean that where the Town has a legitimate local concern for the health and safety of its residents, the Developer can just overwhelm the local rules. That is the balancing that takes place under c. 40B. A Developer must also comply with all state and federal regulations.
The provisions of 40B were enacted precisely to overcome a municipality’s natural tendency to pass Laws that tend to restrict housing in away that makes it financially more difficult for lower income citizens to live where they work. When a local community cannot demonstrate that their local laws are more important than the need for the Town to provide for more affordable housing, the State Law supersedes the By Law to mandate the housing permit. A comprehensive permit to build is issued as a trade off for the financial sacrifice that the developer makes to support the housing subsidy. The cost to the Town is born by the Developer even though the benefit inures to the Town’s obligation to provide affordable housing. Once considered a fair trade, towns now shun new development and complain that they don’t have enough local authority to prohibit affordable housing.
So long as the safety of the Town Citizens or the Land is not threatened by the construction the need for Affordable Housing generally exceeds the local by law. This makes sense and that is why it is the Law. The mere fact that a town does not like the idea or does not want the development is not sufficient to stop a project approved under 40(b). Perhaps it is not a perfect Law but without this Law, Towns like Holliston would continue to justify restricted Zoning By Laws that insidiously undermine affordable housing.
So in fact I serve my Town well by creating jobs, adding to economic development, eliminating contamination, and provided new homes with an affordable component. The fact that I could also be a Selectman does not interfere or conflict with the Law and nor do Selectman have authority in this area. So I still ask for your vote so that I can lead the town in sorely needed economic development that will matter to the Town’s future.