WELLFLEET — The zoning board of appeals began its formal review of the long-planned 95 Lawrence Road affordable housing project on July 14.
For the first time, the developers, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the Community Development Partnership (CDP), presented an overview of the design. The renderings show a new neighborhood named Long Pond Village on six acres of town-owned land.
The 46 apartments, all rental units, wrap around the ballfield across from the Wellfleet Elementary School. The ballfield will be open for use by schoolchildren, the public, and the residents of the development, said Jay Coburn, the CDP’s CEO.
The neighborhood comprises two areas. The Lower Village is a single three-story building containing 22 apartments, all with one or two bedrooms. The building will have a common room, patio, elevator, and laundry. Designed for singles or couples, it will be close to Long Pond Road, where the dilapidated former council on aging building sits.
Across the ballfield and up the hill is the Upper Village with seven buildings holding 24 townhouses. These are two- and three-bedroom units. The roofs have solar panels, and the design, said Coburn, is inspired by mid-century modern architecture.
“Our team has crafted a proposal to build high-quality affordable housing for a range of incomes and household sizes,” Coburn told the ZBA. Another goal of the proposal he described is to ensure environmental sustainability, including being nearly net-zero in energy consumption. The mid-century modern look of the complex reflects a commitment “to create a community with a resilient and elegant design that draws on local building traditions,” he said.
Coburn called the 95 Lawrence Road project “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a considerable number of affordable homes in Wellfleet.”
The ZBA must decide if the 46-unit development qualifies for a comprehensive 40B permit, which will allow for streamlining of the permitting process and the possibility of requesting waivers of certain zoning restrictions that would otherwise make an affordable housing project impossible. The statute allowing a comprehensive permit is sometimes referred to as the “Anti-Snob Zoning Act.”
One zoning waiver, for example, will address the fact that ordinarily multifamily housing is not allowed in the area. Other waivers pertain to lot size and building height.
The ZBA will be meeting in the coming weeks to review project details in phases. Coburn will fully present the architectural and landscape design on July 21. Traffic will be discussed on Aug. 4. The septic and wastewater presentation will be Aug. 25.
The zoning board anticipates it could be ready to decide on the permit on Sept. 8, said Chair Sharon Inger. But knowing that these approvals often take longer than expected, the board has also reserved Sept. 22.
Coburn said that time is of the essence as developers need to queue up to receive federal tax credits that are awarded to affordable housing projects by the state Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The DHCD needs preapplications in October and will be formally awarding tax credits during the “rental round” in January 2023.
Usually, projects must wait for two years to receive the limited pool of aid. But, Coburn said, 2023 is different because of significant American Rescue Plan Act funds directed to affordable housing.
“We think we have a good chance to get funded in the first year because of the need on the Cape and because there are more resources available,” he said.
Coburn said the CDP and POAH went through a preapplication process with the ZBA starting in April and held a question-and-answer session with the public in June. These steps helped prepare the developers for issues that might be raised by town staff and the public.
Using preapplication meetings worked for another developer, Pennrose, which got a comprehensive permit to construct 62 units of affordable housing in Orleans after only six weeks of meetings with the ZBA, Coburn said.
In contrast, the Truro ZBA review of the 39-unit Cloverleaf project took 14 months. Then, after the proposal received a comprehensive permit in January 2021, Truro property owners sued the ZBA. The lawsuit was dismissed in February 2022, but it delayed the development for a year.
Perhaps fearing that the Cloverleaf saga could be repeated in Wellfleet, someone at the July 14 meeting asked if there was any litigation facing this project. No legal challenge can be filed until the permit is issued, Inger said.
The developers hope to begin construction at 95 Lawrence Road in the fall of 2023 and to finish in 2025.
If these units are built, they will be available to people at three different income levels. Twenty-seven units will be reserved for those earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), which would be $45,660 for one person in 2022, and $58,740 for a three-person household.
Eight of the units would be set aside for those earning up to 30 percent of AMI, which is $22,850 for one person and for three people would be $29,350.
Eleven are reserved for those earning up to 120 percent of AMI, which for one person is $91,320 and for three is $117,480.
“We are proposing a community that provides housing for a range of Wellfleet residents, from seniors and families living on very modest incomes to working families to empty-nesters struggling to downsize,” Coburn said.