TRURO — As opposition to the design of the affordable housing project known as the Cloverleaf continued last week, the developer responded to wastewater concerns and objections by the disability commission at another hearing before the zoning board of appeals, which must decide whether to grant a comprehensive permit for the project.
The Cloverleaf is a 39-unit development proposed by Ted Malone of Community Housing Resource Inc. of Provincetown, which has been building affordable housing for 24 years. If the Cloverleaf is approved, it would become the largest such development in Truro’s history.
It has been controversial mostly because of the waivers required for its wastewater treatment system and because of the scale of the 15-unit apartment building at the center of a cluster of 10 other smaller town houses on 3.9 acres at 22 Highland Road in North Truro.
Though the ZBA has not yet voted on the project and its review will continue at a July 30 meeting, several issues were addressed on July 16, including the redesign of the septic system and handicap accessibility. There were also personal jabs at both the developer and the project’s opponents.
The Horsley Witten Group did an independent review of a revised design of the wastewater treatment system and found it adequate.
If it performs like a similar system in a development in Westport, it will reduce nitrogen to 5 milligrams per liter, which is half the state standard limit of 10 milligrams per liter for safe drinking water, said Mark Nelson of Horsley Witten.
The system should reduce the amount of nitrogen in the effluent to no more than 9 milligrams per liter at the property boundary, said Nelson. The outflow will be monitored monthly for the first year, he said.
The development itself will be served by town water, but the treatment system would protect neighboring private wells, said Nelson. Other filters included in the new design will catch more contaminants in the wastewater, he added.
“So, I think it is a reasonable request to grant that waiver,” said Nelson, referring to the ZBA’s upcoming vote on a waiver of local board of health septic regulations.
Susan Howe, chair of the Truro Commission on Disabilities, listed her concerns about the 39 units’ accessibility. She recommended that they meet universal design standards, which would require all the components of a home be accessible to the greatest number of people regardless of their physical abilities. Or, she added, the units should at least meet so-called “visitability” standards, meaning that they should be accessible for a visitor with physical disabilities.
“A disability is not a special condition but will affect most of us for some part of our lives,” Howe said.
The three basic features of visitability, she said, are no-step entrances, 32-inch-wide doorways, and a half bath on the first floor.
The Cloverleaf’s architect, Jessica Snare, said all the units except four, which are on the second stories of townhouses, meet visitability standards. The townhouses have one-step entrances, which meets the design team’s interpretation of visitability, Malone said.
The apartment building with 15 units has an elevator, and all those units exceed visitability standards, Malone added. Half baths were added to the first floors of townhouse units. Doors are 2.8 or 3 feet wide and the units have grab bars, Snare said.
“We are reassured to hear those things,” Howe said.
Malone also addressed some of the other objections listed in a letter signed by over 75 Truro residents.
For one, he said, he cannot make unlimited profit from the development, as some have suggested. State subsidized projects such as this are highly regulated. The development fee is limited to 10 to 12 percent, and the return on equity is capped at 10 percent, Malone said.
The residents’ letter also contends that congregate housing is dangerous in the time of the coronavirus, a criticism that Malone said confuses overcrowded housing with multifamily housing.
“Overcrowding is more people living in a unit than allowed by code, such as what has happened at the Truro Motor Inn,” he said, referring to a motel inhabited year-round and recently ordered closed by the board of health. In subsidized affordable housing developments, on the other hand, occupancy is closely monitored.
A number of people called in to list other grievances, among them opponents being attacked as “anti-affordable housing.”
One of the callers, Regan McCarthy, former president of the Truro Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association, said people are too intimidated to speak out.
State Sen. Julian Cyr, a Truro native and resident, submitted a letter in support of the Cloverleaf. (Cyr has also written an op-ed column on the subject that appears on page A3 of this week’s Independent.)
“It’s very intimidating to have a state senator basically write and say, ‘Think about this again,’ ” McCarthy said. “The community has a right to ask questions without being labeled bad actors.”
Daniel Holt, son of resident Joan Holt, said the reaction by some members of the public to those questioning the Cloverleaf has been “incredibly hostile.”
Kevin Grunwald, chair of the Truro Housing Authority, said that some of the objections to the project, such as those reported in last week’s Independent, display “classism.”
To those who complain that they are being labeled anti-affordable housing, Grunwald said, “If the shoe fits, wear it.”