Local Government and Politics, News

Saugus Zoning Board of Appeals seeks assistance from consultant

SAUGUS — The Zoning Board of Appeals will continue a hearing for a proposed mixed-income development on Route 1 next week with the help of a consultant.

The town secured a $15,000 Chapter 40B Technical Assistance Grant from the Housing Partnership to hire a technical consultant who will advocate for the town with matters related to the proposed project. The grant was awarded last fall and Town Manager Scott Crabtree has hired a technical consultant, Joe Peznola of Hancock Associates, Inc., with the money.

The town also hired legal counsel from Anderson & Kreiger, a Boston-based law firm that specializes in 40B projects.

“The goal is to provide the resources and technical assistance to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the town of Saugus, so that our Zoning Board of Appeals members can make informed and educated decisions on what’s in the best interest of the residents and the Town of Saugus when it relates to this proposed 40B project,” said Crabtree.

The proposal is for a 300-unit rental complex, submitted by Saugus Residential, LLC. The development — which would be called Saugus Ridge — would be located on a 28-acre parcel located on Route 1 North.

The proposal includes two apartment buildings that would be connected by an amenity area of offices, a mailroom, a lounge, the leasing center, and a lobby. There would also be a courtyard, and possibly a pool.

The 300 units include 100 one-bedroom units, 36 one-bedroom apartments with a den, 87 two-bedrooms, 17 two-bedrooms with a den, 31 three-bedroom units, and 29 studios. Of the 300 units, 75 are expected to be affordable. The cost for rent is expected to range from $1,400 to $2,000.

If the Zoning Board of Appeals approves a comprehensive permit for the 40B development, an 18-month to two-year construction period would begin this year. The hearing will continue on Jan. 24 at Saugus Town Hall.

The state’s 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are affordable.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Area Planning Council held visioning sessions with the town to help develop a housing development plan. At the time, only 7 percent, or 749 units, were considered affordable.

If the town does not meet the required 10 percent, developers are allowed to override local zoning and build denser developments.

Moderate income is defined as 80 percent of median income, which is also defined by the federal government regionally. In the Boston area, which includes Saugus, the median income for a family of four is $107,000. Moderate income in Saugus is about $80,000.

Low income is defined as 50 percent of the median income, and very low income is defined as 30 percent of the median income.

Mark Bobrowski, an attorney representing the petitioner, said in October 2017 that an individual person would have to make $55,000 to qualify for the housing, a couple would have to make $63,000, and a three- and four-person family would be upwards of $70,000.

“We’re not talking about people other than your teachers, your firemen, your policemen, people beginning their careers before buying their first home, and people moving into something after selling their home,” said Bobrowski.

When Saugus Ridge developer Toll Brothers Apartment Living submitted a Comprehensive Permit Application for the proposed four-story, 300-unit apartment complex last year, residents spoke out about concerns with the project, ranging from traffic and safety to environmental.

The effect on nearby Prankers Pond has been a contentious debate.

“This is a really precious area and we don’t have many in Saugus,” said Ann Devlin, a Town Meeting member and president of Saugus SAVE. “Its proximity to Prankers Pond makes this the saddest thing that has happened to Saugus that I can see yet.”

Cliff Road resident John Bambury agreed.

“I just don’t understand why you’re going to take a beautiful piece of land and stick this thing up there,” he said.

Crabtree sought help from a consultant to support the Zoning Board and allow them to be prepared, knowledgeable, and to better advocate for the residents of Saugus throughout this development process, said Crabtree.

Peznola hosted a training session for members of the Zoning Board of Appeals last month and provided attendees with a plethora of information, said Crabtree. He explained the entire 40B development process, discussed next steps and strict deadlines, and shared his insights on how to run a meeting with a 40B developer. Peznola has and will continue to assist the town with the entire development period, attending meetings and providing continued consultation services, he said.

As a professional engineer, Peznola has 28 years of experience in land development and 20 years of experience working with Chapter 40B developments. He has performed technical peer reviews for many communities throughout Massachusetts.

Crabtree applied for the funding when Toll Brothers Apartment Living first applied for the project last year.

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