TRURO — The zoning board’s review of the proposed 39-unit Cloverleaf affordable housing project will not be completed in time for developer Ted Malone to apply for state funding before an early August deadline. That means construction cannot begin until 2022 at the earliest.
A July 9 hearing at which the board’s lengthy review process was to continue was called off after 30 minutes because of audio problems in the remote meeting setup. The hearing is now scheduled to resume at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.
Before last week’s session was aborted, however, Town Planner Jeff Ribeiro said it would take more than two more meetings of the zoning board of appeals to work through unresolved issues with the project, to be built on 3.9 acres at 22 Highland Road in North Truro.
It would have been impossible even without the technical snafu for Malone’s company, Community Housing Resource of Provincetown, to meet an Aug. 6 deadline for applying for state funding this year.
“Reapplying in 2021 will put the timeline an extra year out,” Malone said.
Before a shovel hits the ground, the ZBA must grant waivers to the town’s height, density, and wastewater regulations — waivers that are enabled under Chapter 40B, the state law that provides a relatively fast-track process for developers of affordable housing in communities with extreme scarcities of such housing.
The opposition to the Cloverleaf project has been vocal.
On July 9, the ZBA met in executive session to discuss Truro Planning Board member Peter Herridge, who has distributed a “fact sheet” of objections to the development.
The exception to the state’s Open Meeting Law cited by the board in justifying the closed session was “to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual.”
Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer said that a resident had complained about Herridge’s fact sheet and that his language was intended to scare people.
A major objection raised by Herridge and others relates to granting a waiver from town regulations on the treatment of wastewater. The ZBA asked the developer to design a more intensive septage treatment system; this design was then reviewed by an independent consultant, the Horsley Witten Group.
The new design lowers the concentration of nitrogen of the treated effluent to below the state standard of 10 milligrams per liter. The Horsley Witten review, released on July 9, concluded “that it is appropriate to grant a waiver to the board of health nitrogen loading limitation regulation.”
The Independent asked Herridge what he thought of the new proposed wastewater treatment system, and he responded that he had spoken to a water expert who told him, if properly maintained and monitored, it will be “adequate.”
Herridge added, “It makes it impossible to sue [Malone] as I had intended. Of course, this little scumbag will try to sleaze in any way that makes him money and this system will require constant and expensive maintenance, which, of course, will be done in the crummiest and cheapest way possible. But I believe, from a purely legal perspective, it makes it highly unlikely that we could win.”
A Strategy of Delay
Herridge described his strategy for fighting the Cloverleaf project.
“The thing to do now is to delay in every way possible, because there may be state and federal money available now, but there sure as hell will not be next year,” he told the Independent. “My motto is never give up, never surrender.”
Herridge is not the only opponent of Cloverleaf. Stephen Williams, who was Truro’s building inspector 35 years ago, wrote to the ZBA that the development is too dense and out of character for the town.
“And just because low-income working people aren’t rich enough to buy a house in Shearwater is no reason for them to have to suffer the added indignity of being herded together like animals so tightly into the concentration-camp like densities of this ‘duplex disaster,’ ” Williams wrote.
Letters on both sides of the controversy have attracted large number of signatures. One such letter to the ZBA, signed by more than 75 Truro residents, stated, in part, “The pandemic — which we can’t assume will be our last — has put everything into a new perspective. We know now that infectious diseases like Covid‐19 disproportionately infect people living in densely populated housing. Doesn’t this fact make it incumbent on us to reconsider whether it is responsible from a public health standpoint to house close to 100 people including at‐risk workers and elders in close proximity on 4 acres of land?”
Andrea Aldana, director of housing advocacy for the Eastham-based Community Development Partnership, has responded to this concern, “Solid affordable housing stock reduces overcrowding and makes public safety less of an issue,” said Aldana in June.
Another letter, delivered this week to the ZBA and select board and signed by 85 people, refuted the objectors’ letter point by point, concluding with: “They say: We need to slow things down. We say: We need to keep moving forward to address our housing crisis.”