TRURO — The development of the affordable housing project known as the Cloverleaf hit a snag on Dec. 17 that has delayed the approval of the 39-unit plan by the zoning board of appeals.
The developer, Ted Malone of Community Housing Resource of Provincetown, told the zoning board that the seven market-rate units that were included in the original plan— along with 32 income-restricted apartments — are no longer feasible because of the way the state regulates housing subsidies.
“The numbers just don’t work,” Malone told the ZBA last week.
He explained that the state Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which assists with securing subsidies for housing projects, doesn’t want more than three levels of income restrictions in a single project. The original plan called for three levels, plus market rate, so people earning 60, 80, and 110 percent of the area median income would be eligible for income-restricted rental apartments.
Malone asked that fewer specifics be written into the ZBA’s approval of the project; he wants the specific income limits to be left to his and the DHCD’s discretion. All of the units would, he promised, be income-restricted.
“There’s just a level of detail [in the draft of the ZBA decision] that may conflict with the regulatory agreements drafted by the subsidizing agency,” Malone said.
The change took zoning board members by surprise.
“Then, that’s a different project,” said Barbara Carboni of KP Law, the acting town planner.
She asked Malone to provide a written summary of what he wanted. Art Hultin, chair of the ZBA, reiterated her demand.
“I’ll caution you, Mr. Malone, it’s got to be clear,” Hultin said.
“Yes, I intend to do that,” Malone said. “We’ll have something written and clear. I’m just alerting you that this language [in the draft decision] won’t work.”
The ZBA, which has been reviewing the project for over one year, will meet again virtually on Jan. 7 at 5:30 p.m.
The ZBA has also not yet voted on whether to allow the proposed wastewater treatment plan. A poll of the board, however, found all but possibly one member, John Thornley, would support it. Malone plans to use an alternative treatment system that treats effluent more effectively than individual Title V systems.
But neighbors of the project continue to raise objections. Karen Ruymann, of Bay View Drive, said even the town’s health agent doesn’t understand why there is poor water quality in the Pond Village neighborhood.
Emily Beebe, the health agent, had in a previous meeting talked about a resident whose well water had a nitrate level over 10 mg/L although she has a tight tank. Since all septage is contained within the tight tank, her well had to have been contaminated by something else that no one, including Beebe, knows, Ruymann said.
“This is deeply disturbing to us, that there is not a really detailed hydrogeological study,” Ruymann said.
She asked that such a study be part of the conditions on the project. That could be a heavy economic burden for Malone and probably would not stand up to a court challenge, Carboni said.
Beebe told the Independent that she has not herself seen any recent readings over 10 mg/L in Pond Village. But she took that resident at her word. She lives right on Pilgrim Pond, which catches runoff from surrounding hills and Route 6.
Hultin said the area has had poor water quality for years, but that is not due to the unbuilt Cloverleaf development. Studies by the Cape Cod Commission and an independent peer reviewer, Mark Nelson of the Horsley Witten Group, found the Cloverleaf wouldn’t affect neighboring wells at all.
The Truro Part-Time Resident Taxpayers’ Association’s most recent newsletter, sent to members on Dec. 21, associates the Cloverleaf with questionable science by the Docs for Truro Safe Water, whose materials talk about the dangers of “nitrate contamination on living things,” the newsletter states.
The “docs” derive their name from the fact that all of them have doctorate degrees. They are epidemiologist Ron Fichtner; Dr. Frederick Ruymann, a gastroenterologist; Dr. Robert Brown, a neurologist; Mary Pearl, a conservation biologist; Christopher Clark and Brian Boyle, both engineers; and Robert Simpson, who holds a doctor of social work degree and specializes in behavioral health.
None is a hydrogeologist.