WELLFLEET — The task force charged with reviewing the three proposals for the largest affordable housing development in the town’s history must limit its decision-making to what each would-be developer submitted on paper as its vision for the six-acre site. That advice came as a bit of a surprise to its members.
“You’re scoring on what they present, not what you hope they will do,” Laura Shufelt told the 95 Lawrence Road Task Force when it kicked off its review on Aug. 26. Shufelt, the director of community assistance for the Mass. Housing Partnership, has been advising the task force for the last three years. “Don’t look at ‘Gee, I love this if they only did X,’ ” she said. “Look at what’s proposed.”
Task force chair Elaine McIlroy had asked about “wiggle room,” as all three developers had said in their proposals that they looked forward to talking with the town.
Shufelt said there may be “tweaks,” but they would happen only after a developer was chosen and plans were beyond the conceptual stage.
Over the next month, the task force will score each proposal on an established list of criteria, ranging from the developer’s experience to design to traffic flow to financial feasibility.
The time frame is tight. The committee was hoping to make its recommendation to the select board by the end of September. But it’s been tough finding a firm to assess the financial viability of the proposals.
Task force member Harry Terkanian requested quotes from four firms, but three of the four immediately declined because of the short time allowed for the review.
Of the three submissions to build affordable housing on Lawrence Road, two came from large nonprofits: Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), with a $20.2-million plan; and the Community Builders, with a $19.3-million package. Both already have a presence on Cape Cod. The third proposal, for a $14.6-million project, was submitted by Civico Development, a for-profit real estate development firm based in Hopedale with experience in construction of affordable housing.
All three call for 46 rental units, as required by the town, but each presented a different vision in terms of design and layout, along with differences in the mix of affordability. One of the town’s prerequisites is that the developer must agree to share the cost of installing and operating a sewer system.
After rating each proposal, the task force will forward its recommendation to the select board, which will make the final decision. The ratings aren’t everything: the winning proposal won’t necessarily be the one with the highest score. It will be the proposal “that best meets the needs of the community,” according to the town’s request for proposals.
Last week’s task force session started with a preliminary discussion of POAH’s submission. The other two proposals were slated for review on Wednesday, Sept 1.
On Monday, members were scheduled to visit Canal Bluffs, POAH’s project in Bourne, Noquochoke Village, the Community Builders’ project in Westport, and Lake Street Terrace, the Community Builders’ development in Chatham.
Some members of the group also plan to travel to Oriole Landing, a Civico project in Lincoln.
On Friday, Sept. 10, the public can watch Zoom presentations from the developers. POAH is scheduled at 10 a.m., the Community Builders at 11:30, and Civico at 12:30 p.m.
During last Thursday’s discussion of POAH, the task force raised some questions the nonprofit can expect to hear on Sept. 10. Parking was one concern. POAH’s plan has 1.3 spaces per unit, while town zoning sets the minimum at 1.5. Asked whether that was something the developer could change, Shufelt said no. POAH would look for a waiver from the town.
“Parking spaces are ugly looking on a plan, but they are key to having visitors and family,” said task force member Jan Plaue.
McIlroy hoped for some clarification of POAH’s plan to build with “passive house” energy standards, which produce air-tight buildings, in addition to installing solar panels. She said she wants to know more about the issue of air exchange.
POAH’s plan to put 22 smaller units in a single three-story building with an elevator also raised concerns. “I thought we were pretty specific that we would prefer a building that didn’t have an elevator and met our height requirement,” said member Kathleen Bacon.
Gary Sorkin said POAH likely saw the elevator as a plus for accessibility.
Sorkin and McIlroy had recently attended a meeting on the project organized by some abutters. “There was really some incredible support and some honest questions,” McIlroy reported.
The biggest concerns were about water, said Sorkin — both drinking water and wastewater.
No matter which developer is chosen, a pipeline will provide water to the development and a sewering network and treatment system will take care of wastewater.
Shufelt told the Independent the task force has worked hard to be transparent. “They have been very public about it,” she said. “They’ve had community meetings, educational forums, and updates as things progressed.”