Saturday, September 24, 2011

Appeals Court upholds Housing Appeals Committee

On Friday September 15th the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court decision that affirmed the Housing Appeals Committee’s decision to issue a “Comprehensive Permit” to Green View Realty, LLC for the construction of 200 Condominium Town Homes to be known as Cedar Ridge Estates. This adjudication ends the legal battle waged by the Town of Holliston in an attempt to block the project. The Appeals Court panel of three Judges unanimously issued a well documented decision ordering the Town of Holliston to issue the “Comprehensive Permit”

This action legitimizes the project, clearing the way to pursue the three permits needed to obtain the building permit. The MEPA process sets out the plan for remediation. The Notice of Intent (NOI) addresses the Wetlands on the property under the guidelines set by the Wetlands Protection Act and Waste Water discharge permit required to process and discharge waste water. This process is expected to take up to one year assuming that the Town of Holliston will continue to use (or misuse) the process that allows them to participate in the permitting process.

This ruling also clears the way for new capital and the entertainment of suitors that desire to obtain 200 building permits. Timing could be just about right to start building in late 2012 or by spring of 2013. Now the economy dictates the timing for this project.

See the entire decision at under “PUBLIC FORUM”

Common Sense: The Case for Cedar Ridge Estates

Common Sense: the Case for Cedar Ridge Estates

As a young man, I was able to work for a man named Charlie Bird. I was about 16, still attending Holliston High School. While working for Charlie we went out to the back 40 one day to cut firewood that he harvested from his land. Distinctly, I remember the enormous pile of tires that stretched in a long row for quite a distance. Charlie believed that used tires would one day fetch him a small fortune. It was an impressive accumulation of tires and by some accounts more than 230,000 of them. Leaving Holliston and home, having graduated with honors, for the United States Naval Academy in 1970 I soon forgot about the tires and the Bird Property. I mention this because Holliston, a town I loved so well has changed!

Many years later I heard that the tire pile was involved in a nasty fire set by vandals and that the property was contaminated by the illegal dumping of solid waste materials and volatile organic chemicals brought from two local businesses. Charlie had died and the property lay fallow and contaminated.

In 2004, as a Financial Advisor, the Trustees of the property contacted me to assist them in finding a suitable investor to create value in the property. The Town of Holliston had agreed, at the suggestion of the DEP, to solicit by formal Request for Response, a builder to purchase and develop the property for an amount sufficient to settle a super lien placed on the land by the DEP and for the contamination cleanup discovered after the tire fire. The Town of Holliston was to receive $250,000 to reimburse the cost of removing the tires for safety sake.

That is when I became involved again because it seemed the right thing to do. The Town was soliciting developers to build on the property, the Town would receive a substantial benefit and the State would recover some of its clean up costs. Believing that the land was worth more than its foreclosure value I assisted the Birds in securing an investor developer to purchase the land and building project solicited by Holliston.

Somewhere along the line, the Town disingenuously decided that the public solicitation was no longer on the table, as I am sure that their intention was under the table, having targeted one particular builder for the project. What a shame! The Town was to receive $250,000.00, a cleaned up property and new housing. By now the Trustees, having an obligation to preserve and protect the value of the property for the beneficiaries, was forced to seek permits to build on the Land as this was the only way to recover enough value to satisfy the State’s Lien and the Towns recovery of costs. At Town Meeting, organized voters denied a warrant article to rezone the property for construction of age-restricted homes for our towns over age 55 population. The only solution became an application to construct homes some of which would be afforded to modest income earning families like Teachers, Fireman, Civil Servants and single mothers needing a home for their broken families, a way to live in the Town they worked for and loved. Instead, Holliston mounted a six year protracted fight to stop any housing development on the Land. As leader of this battle, I was surprised by the neighboring animosity now around me.

After a prolonged 20 month Public Hearing conducted by the ZBA, the Town rejected the project by denying the application for a Comprehensive Permit. Green View Realty, the Developer appealed the Town’s decision. The Town motioned to deny the Appeal. The State allowed the Appeal; Green View won the Appeal and received the Comprehensive Permit over the objections of the Town. Next, the Town appealed the HAC decision to the Land Court and recently the Land Court denied the Town’s complaint and upheld the Housing Appeals Committee decision. Holliston then appealed to the State Appeals Court and has now lost three times.

So now where do we stand? The Town lost the chance to get $250,000 and spent approximately $200,000 in multiple attempts to stop the project. Why did Holliston deliberately loose the opportunity to collect $250,000 and squander $200,000 of your money to stop what they themselves initiated? Now your Selectmen having appealed thrice want to appeal again to a higher court. Should we allow Town Government steer us down this path of poor judgment? Should we spend good money after bad to stop a project that will, at the end of the day, improve the Town? We certainly could have used that money somewhere else in Town!

If this chronicle appeals to your differentiation between sense and nonsense ask yourself does the Towns actions make sense? How does Town Government first initiate a process to develop the property then change its mind when they did not like the Developer and suddenly conjure that the land was contaminated and would not support residential housing?

Not to mention our local economy could surely benefit from $70,000,000.00 of commerce where revenue will attribute to local businesses in the Town. New construction leads to jobs, income, tax revenue, fees and an improved local economy.

The Town of Holliston currently has one of the lowest percentages of affordable housing in the Commonwealth. An affordable residential housing development will improve the percentage of affordable housing units in the Town and convert this Brownfield property into a thriving Green housing community with approximately 200 aesthetically pleasing units, 50 of which will be affordable housing units, along with recreation areas, walking paths and conservation areas.

The Cedar Ridge Estates residential housing community will result in an increased value in the underlying & neighboring property; enable remediation of any residual contamination and clean-up site debris; and allow for the repayment of outstanding remediation costs. The project will be completed in a safe and responsible manner and will have no significant adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhood or the environment. The project plans to address today’s demand for environmentally Green Housing by using LEED Construction, adding photovoltaic and solar thermal renewable energy sources. Thus the projects mission statement: “From Brownfield to Greenfield: to clean up yesterday’s contamination to create environmentally green housing for tomorrow.”