TRURO — Several residents, including three members of the Truro Planning Board, objected to the so-called Cloverleaf affordable housing development during a zoning board of appeals hearing on Dec. 5.
Developer Ted Malone has proposed building 40 units at 22 Highland Road in North Truro. To do so, he needs several waivers from local zoning laws. The development is denser and taller than allowed by Truro’s bylaws. Among other exceptions, Malone is seeking a waiver from Truro’s regulations for wastewater.
This request caused the most controversy at the meeting, with one speaker, Peter Herridge, warning about blue baby syndrome.
“I wouldn’t want North Truro to become another Flint, Michigan,” Herridge said.
The Cloverleaf plan calls for 70 bedrooms on 3.9 acres of land. Truro Board of Health regulations require 10,000 square feet of land per 110 gallons per day, which in this case would mean 17.8 acres is needed to support the septage flow at the Cloverleaf.
The developer has proposed including the undevelopable land surrounding the project as part of the total acreage. The Cloverleaf got its name from a one-time plan to build ramps to Route 6 there. The state dept. of transportation never built the ramps and gave the land to the town for affordable housing.
If the ZBA includes the entire layout of the proposed Route 6 interchange, adding 15.6 acres to the 3.91-acre parcel, the undevelopable land would therefore contribute to the “aggregate nitrogen loading land area,” according to report written by town staff for the ZBA.
“Similarly,” the staff report continued, “the abutting land of the Cape Cod National Seashore will not be developed and could also be considered as contributing to the aggregate nitrogen loading analysis.”
ZBA members asked Malone to hire a consultant to analyze the wastewater, stormwater, and groundwater impacts. This review would provide an outside source on the effect of the development. The consultant would be asked to consider if an alternative sewage treatment system would be necessary on the property.
But that didn’t satisfy the half dozen speakers who opposed the plan.
Herridge introduced himself as a medical doctor, lawyer, and member of the planning board. Tonight, “I’m going to talk about medicine,” he began.
He said the groundwater in the Highland Road area flows toward Pond Village and the Shearwater development, south of Pond Village. Herridge said that well testing in 2010 found that the worst nitrogen loading in town was at Pond Village and Shearwater. Out of 169 samples, 5.9 percent had 5 mg of nitrogen per liter or higher at Pond Village.
The EPA standard set 40 years ago is 10 mg of nitrogen per liter. But the safety standard in Germany is 4.4 mg per liter, Herridge said. The reason for the safety standards, he added, was to prevent blue baby syndrome, which he then described graphically.
“By Germany’s standard, people in these hot spots in Pond Village are already drinking toxic water,” Herridge said. He asked whether anyone had seen a baby who had died of blue baby syndrome. “I have, in the slums of the South Bronx when I was a medical student,” Herridge said. “I don’t think we want to see that in North Truro.”
Two other planning board members, who said they were speaking as private citizens, also voiced concerns. One, Paul Kiernan, said the wastewater would produce an enormous amount of flow in North Truro. And Jack Riemer, of Fisher Road, cited a judge’s ruling in Reynolds v. the ZBA of Stow, Mass. The judge, at the end of his decision, stated, “Faced with evidence that one or more adjacent private wells will have elevated nitrogen levels,” it would be unreasonable to conclude that the need for affordable housing outweighs the health concerns of abutters.
Riemer also said he worried about the chemicals being dumped down people’s toilets and the effect they would have on the groundwater.
The other three speakers had similar concerns about water and property maintenance.
Debra Best-Parker of Waterview Heights Road in North Truro asked why the developer was bringing forward a plan that needed so many waivers from building regulations. KP Law attorney Jessica Bardi explained that the state’s Chapter 40B statute promotes affordable housing by allowing greater density and waivers of local bylaws. In 40B cases, the ZBA must decide whether the need for affordable housing outweighs health and safety concerns, she said.
The ZBA will continue to discuss the project on Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Truro Town Hall.