J. Michael Norton for Selectman

J. Michael Norton

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The Town of Holliston, Massachusetts currently has one of the lowest percentages of affordable housing in the Commonwealth. An affordable residential housing development to be named Cedar Ridge Estates is proposed on the land formerly known as the Bird Property located on Marshall Street. This project when permitted and constructed 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.

 

PROPERTY DESCRIPTION

 

The property is located at the intersection of Marshall and Prentice Streets in Holliston, within two miles of the Holliston Municipal Golf Course and High School, and comprises approximately 53 acres of land. The site contains an elevated ridgeline in the northwest corner of the property as well as a wetland area in the south west section and a small man made pond in the front, northeast corner. There are 35 upland acres suitable for housing construction.

           

The property was used throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s as a tire storage and construction debris disposal site. Some of the property was altered and filled. Site assessment began in the mid-1980s by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). In 1989 the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MADEP”) designated the property as a Tier 1A site and is in Phase III (Identification, Evaluation, and Selection of Comprehensive Remedial Plans Action Alternatives and the Remedial Action Plan.). Since the 1980s, clean-up has included removal of over 340 drums containing tar and other contaminants, solid waste and construction debris, approximately 230,000 tires, and over 70 tons of contaminated soils. A residual groundwater plume of hazardous material emanates from the site that contains mostly low levels of TCE. MADEP consultants have concluded in the draft RAO that these levels of contaminants require no further clean-up and will over time continue to decline due to the removal of the source of contamination and natural attenuation.

 

The Town of Holliston and the MA DEP have been responsible for the clean-up of the property over the past decade. Currently, the MA DEP has a lien on the property of $1,750,000, most of which is the cost basis on a $1.2 million clean-up. In 2002, the State and the Town of Holliston initiated a Request for Proposal seeking to attract a developer that would purchase the property in order to pay off the lien. The RFP suggested that a zoning change and development of the property as senior residential housing would be the highest and best use of the property, and would result in a productive housing community generating sufficient resources to complete the clean-up process and repay the state and community debt. The Trusts, which owned the Property, responded in a pro-active and responsible way to satisfy the objectives of the State and Town.

The Trusts submitted a Warrant Article to Holliston Town Meeting to rezone the property from its existing zoning (Residential A) to Residential B with an Age Restricted Zoning Overlay. The

Article was denied at Town Meeting. During this process, several meetings were held with Town Boards and with interested neighbors to discuss the request.

 

The objective of this project is to satisfy the requirements of the State and Town, namely to repay outstanding remediation costs, complete site remediation, create affordable housing, create jobs and sustainable tax revenue, and promote other tangible benefits to the community.

 

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

           

The proposed development will consist of approximately 200 attached single-family, 2 or 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 story units with ground floor garages that will range in size from 1,850 to 2,000 square feet. Of these units, 25% (50 units) will be designated as affordable housing units, which will increase the number of affordable housing units in the Town of Holliston by a significant number. A community center will include conference and function rooms, a study and multimedia center. A putting green or tennis courts will accent the property that includes ponds, ample walking paths, and over 15 acres of open space, woods and preserved wetlands. The overall density of the project will be approximately 4 units per acre.

 

As a result of the discussions held with the Town and the neighbors, several aspects of the Conceptual Plan have been designed to address comments received. The highest residential unit density has been moved to the front of the property but away from abutting property lines. Sufficient landscape buffers are planned along abutting property lines in order to enhance the visual impacts to neighbors and residents. The rear of the property will contain the wetlands and conservation areas.

           

Access to and from the site will principally be from two Marshall Street access ways with the main access drive winding through the property in a large loop. Emergency access is also proposed at the south end of the property off Marshall Street to be used only for emergency vehicles to reach areas most remote to the main entrance. Initial traffic studies have concluded that the area roadway network is sufficient to handle the additional traffic generated by the project in a safe manner, without requiring intersection and/or roadway improvements or reconstruction efforts.

 

The storm-water system for the proposed development will be designed in accordance with all applicable State and Federal requirements. Site improvements will be made to attenuate peak runoff flow requirements and for pollution prevention control. All storm- water will be conveyed and discharged on-site by a series of catch basins and culverts to detention basins. No increases in off-site storm-water discharge will result from the development.

           

Wastewater generated by the development (approximately 60,000 gallons per day) will be treated by an on-site wastewater treatment facility. Initial soil exploration activities indicate that suitable soils exist on the site for installation of a soil absorption system.

 

An adequate amount of public water is available to meet the needs of the development without the need for additional water supply, but a water booster pump station will be installed on-site to provide better pressure and flow requirements to both the neighborhood and development.

The proposed development will increase the underlying value of the property, allow resolution of the existing MA DEP lien, as well as resolving potential issues associated with residual groundwater and soil contaminants and construction debris on the property. Redevelopment of the property will allow the past environmental mistakes to be corrected, improving both site conditions and providing a benefit to the neighborhood and Town of Holliston as a whole. The developer is researching and planning for a model “Green Project” to suit today’s current demand for environmentally sensitive and energy efficient housing construction.

 

A pro-forma has been developed to evaluate the approximate costs of construction versus the expected revenues for the project. The pro-forma is based on a 200-unit development, 25% of which would be affordable housing. The calculation of the affordable unit sale price was completed using DHCD guidance for local income levels. The DHCD guidance assumes that initial purchasers for a unit will not be required to spend more than 30 percent of the gross income of a similarly sized household earning 70 percent of the area median income for debt service on a mortgage including taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance and homeowners’ association fees with no more than a 5% down payment.

 

Resale of affordable units shall be restricted for a period of 30 years. The maximum resale value shall be the initial purchase price increased by the percentage increase in area median income since the time of initial sale.

 

Based on the above, the affordable units will sell for a cost of approximately $175,000 for 2-bedroom units to $195,000 for 3-bedroom units. Market rate units will sell for approximately $385,000 for 2-bedroom and $425,000 for 3-bedroom units. Costs for environmental restoration, payment of the MA DEP lien, soft costs for permitting, and construction of infrastructure and the buildings were accounted for in the expenses of the pro forma. An estimated total profit margin of approximately five percent was calculated, which is allowed under Chapter 40B. Any excess profit above a 20% cap would be donated to the Holliston community for infrastructure and other municipal improvements and needs.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

            The Cedar Ridge Estates residential housing community will increase the number of affordable units in the Town of Holliston; 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 debts. The project will be accomplished in a safe and responsible manner and will not have significant adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhood or the environment. The project is proposed to address today’s demand for environmentally Green Housing by using LEED Construction, adding photo voltaic and solar thermal renewable energy production. Thus the projects mission statement is: “From Brownfield to Greenfield”