120-unit housing development needs Comprehensive Permit; meeting set for Monday, Sept. 28

Settlers' Green project heads to Warren Planning Board

By Ted Hayes
Posted 9/17/20

The Warren Planning Commission will soon decide the fate of Settlers' Green, a large affordable housing development planned for a stretch of farmland just north of Frerichs Farm.

The commission is …

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120-unit housing development needs Comprehensive Permit; meeting set for Monday, Sept. 28

Settlers' Green project heads to Warren Planning Board

Posted

The Warren Planning Commission will soon decide the fate of Settlers' Green, a large affordable housing development planned for a stretch of farmland just north of Frerichs Farm.

The commission is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, to decide on whether to approve a Comprehensive Permit to Last Ever Realty LLC, the Fall River-based developer planning the 12-home, 108-unit apartment complex on the former Bettencourt Farm.

The commission's planned review comes after Warren's Preliminary Review Committee last week voted to send the project on to the commissions with the concerns and questions that had been raised during prior meetings with the developer.

"They did not feel that they had adequate information to vote on approving the project," Warren Town Planner Bob Rulli, a member of that review committee, said.

In previous review committee meetings, members said they didn't have enough information on the impact the housing project will have on Warren’s infrastructure and quality of life, and wanted more details from the developer.

It became clear early on that Last Ever principals did not include much of the information town officials deem essential - hydrology reports, environmental information, soil erosion and sediment analyses, landscaping information and other explanatory information. Though town officials said much information was lacking, town officials said one big hurdle in the project’s development is clear: The impact on the sewer system.

The project is estimated to generate 100 gallons of effluent per minute. It would flow away from the site to Patterson Avenue, where a 24” pipe runs to Metacom. At that point, the pipe narrows to 15 inches and then up to 21 inches at the intersection of Metacom and Vernon. Already, Mr. Rulli said, that line is at its maximum design capacity of 1,400 gallons per minute.

“The 100 (additional) is going to create a bottleneck” at the 15” section, he said. “More than likely that section of pipe is going to need to be enlarged. It’s not going to work the way this is designed right now.”

The project is being proposed under the state’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, which allows developers to take advantage of streamlined approval processes and reduced town review if they dedicate a percentage of the units for affordable housing in towns that don’t meet the state’s threshold of having 10 percent of their housing stock deeded as affordable. Though there was little in-depth review of the project’s particulars, Fred Massie, chairman of the planning commission, said at a review committee meeting that he believes the project’s description as an affordable housing development belies the reality - it’s not really affordable at all, he suggested.

The application “says at least 25 percent (of units) will be deed-restricted,” he said. “That number really doesn’t make much of a dent in our 10 percent requirement (the town is currently just below 5 percent). That seems like a small percentage ... for this extremely large and tightly packed development. I would want to see significantly more than 25 percent if the argument is to be made that this is a means by which we can significantly ... impact affordable housing.”

Mr. Massie and others, too, said they have problems with some of the handful of waivers from town regulations that are being sought under the comprehensive permit application. Among them are parking space requirements and the planting of trees along the road, two particulars which gave Mr. Massie pause:

Those waivers “suggest a density of development that seems completely out of character with the size of this piece of property,” he said. It “suggests a level of profit over concern for quality of life in the area. To me those two waivers are frankly inappropriate for a development of this size.”

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