Concerned about potential summer traffic snarls at the former Henry T. Wing School, the zoning board of appeals this week asked for a traffic study before giving the go-ahead for a senior housing complex on the site.
“I’m concerned about how busy that area is at the peak of summer,” said vice chairman James J. Killion at a ZBA meeting on Tuesday, June 22.
The school’s athletic fields will be retained by the town even after the proposed 128 units of affordable senior housing are built there over the next few years by Stratford Capital Group (SCG). The fields are used extensively by baseball, soccer, and other youth programs.
Mr. Killion and other ZBA members expressed concerns that the future senior residents might have trouble navigating in and out of their complex during the peak of the season.
Although SCG has already conducted weekday traffic studies at the site, the ZBA has asked that a weekend car count be conducted by SCG and reviewed by the town’s engineering department. The results will be presented at the ZBA’s July 13 meeting.
The ZBA request came at the end of an SCG presentation on drainage, parking, and development plans for the proposed complex. SCG is seeking a comprehensive permit from the ZBA, which is needed before the developer can begin construction.
During the discussion about projected parking and traffic flow, Keith J. McDonald, vice president of development and acquisitions, said SCG has found—at its other senior housing complexes on Cape Cod—that traffic has not been an issue.
Specifically, senior residents (ages 62 and older) do not need a lot of extra parking spaces, said Donald A. Rose, senior engineer with CHA Design/Construction Solutions.
At senior complexes SCG has built at the former Kempton J. Coady School in Bourne and the former John Simpkins School on South Yarmouth’s Main Street, only .66 spaces per unit are actually in use, Mr. Rose said.
“At the Coady School nearly 50 percent of the spaces are open” at any given time, Mr. Rose said.
Nevertheless, he added, the plans for the Wing School complex call for at least one space per unit, plus an additional six open spaces for general use. Parking has also been calculated for six SCG onsite staffers—property managers, resident support staff and technicians.
“We feel very comfortable with the number of spaces,” Mr. Rose said. “We don’t feel this is going to be an issue.”
Mr. Rose also discussed the extensive water collection and drainage systems that will be installed to handle stormwater runoff.
Plans for the site’s septic systems were also discussed.
Wastewater for phases 1 and 2 of the three-phase project will be handled by an existing Title V septic system that was built for the school, the engineer said.
Phase 3 will not proceed unless the town has installed sewer pipes and a wastewater treatment facility, Mr. McDonald said.
“The state would not want to fund the third phase if those services were not in place,” Mr. McDonald said.
SCG is counting on state funding to build its $53 million mixed-income development at the former school site.
The developer is also slated to receive $2.6 million in community preservation funds to help defray the demolition costs to take down all the buildings on the property except the historic red brick “1927 Building” facing Route 130.
Town Planning Director Ralph A. Vitacco has said the preservation grant will demonstrate the town’s commitment to the project. The $2.6 million would not only pay for the demolition, but also help the developer qualify for state affordable housing tax credits.
Most of the 128 units would be for low-to-moderate income seniors, and about 20 units would be rented at market rates, according to the proposal.
The finished project is expected to pay the town about $128,000 a year in taxes, Mr. Vitacco has said.
SCG’s other affordable senior housing projects are all 100 percent occupied and have waiting lists, Mr. McDonald has said.
Mr. Vitacco and assistant town manager Heather B. Harper have urged advisory board members to keep the end result in mind—and to act quickly—so the developer can continue the long process of acquiring state tax credits.
For each of three proposed phases, the developer will seek tax credits through the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. The tax credits, allocated to the state by the US Internal Revenue Service, reduce the tax burden on designated properties, so the developer can offer lower, more affordable rates, according to state documents.
According to the Stratford Group’s proposal, the demolished buildings at the Wing school site would be replaced with two- and three- story buildings containing about 40 units each.
Common areas would include dining rooms, game rooms, meeting rooms, and quiet spaces.
Mr. Rose told the ZBA this week that plans for sidewalks connecting to the conservation areas and a playground have been added.
Mr. Vitacco said the ZBA could have asked for an independent traffic study to be conducted, but SCG has been so cooperative and willing to make concessions to town officials and residents, that the ZBA found that a traffic study by SCG—and a review of that study by Assistant Town Engineer Samuel Jensen—will suffice.
“We can also look, for comparison, at the parking and traffic at Shawme Heights, which is just a mile-and-a-half down the road,” Mr. Vitacco said. “Why not look at the same type of development that’s already in our backyard?”