WELLFLEET — With all the presentations done and many questions asked and answered, the task force charged with recommending the best developer to build 46 units of affordable rental housing on Lawrence Road is ready to rate the proposals.
The group is now meeting three times a week in hopes of reaching a decision sometime in October.
All three groups that submitted proposals for the six-acre tract met the town’s basic requirements for experience in affordable housing development, for the inclusion of a range of affordability levels, and for plans for the extensive use of energy-efficiency measures.
Now, the 95 Lawrence Road Task Force will look closely at the elements of the proposals that differentiate them from one another. The plans for the land, the size of the buildings, the square footage of the individual units, and even smaller items, like availability of storage space, will be taken into consideration.
Last Friday, the Community Builders, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the Community Development Partnership, and Civico presented their visions for building the new neighborhood across from the Wellfleet Elementary School. They also introduced their development teams, made up of engineers, architects, and landscape specialists.
At the Friday session, some worries were quickly put to rest. For example, the task force members had discussed a lack of adequate parking in two of the three proposals, but they came away relieved after the discussions with developers. “The takeaway I had was ‘It’s no problem; we’ll add spaces,’ ” said task force member Gary Sorkin during Monday’s meeting to formalize the group’s evaluation process.
The task force had also been concerned about whether all three developers would commit to shouldering 44 percent of the cost to build and operate a wastewater system, as required by the town’s specifications. All three confirmed their commitments on Friday. The same was true of a guarantee of air conditioning, with all three using electric systems capable of providing heat and air conditioning, with individual thermostats for each unit.
Each task force member will now individually evaluate the three developers and their proposals on their experience and capacity to do the project, affordability plans, their site design including plans for landscaping and lighting, pedestrian connections, and traffic flow, infrastructure and energy efficiency, and building design.
The proposals will be scored in each category as unacceptable, advantageous (that is, acceptable), and highly advantageous. Task force members will then discuss their individual ratings and come to a consensus on who should be chosen to build the project.
Projected costs range from $14.6 million, as submitted by Civico, to $20.2 million, submitted by Preservation of Affordable Housing. The Community Builders estimated its project cost at $19.3 million. The task force is seeking help from a consultant to evaluate the financial strategies each developer plans to pursue in order to pay for the work.
But task force member Harry Terkanian said he’d yet to get a commitment from a consultant who could do that job. If the committee can’t get the financial review done, that could conceivably delay the project. Assistant Town Administrator Rebecca Slick suggested the committee “cast a wider net,” since there is no requirement to have a Cape-based consultant handle the job. She said she would reach out to regional planning agencies for possible candidates.
References on the developers have yet to be checked. Committee members hope to get that done this week.
Meanwhile, task force member Kathleen Bacon said that one priority she’ll have in her consideration of each proposal will be the abutters and how the plans fit into the surrounding area.
The Community Builders and POAH included plans for larger buildings that would require height variances from the town. During their presentations, both developers said the aim of their denser layouts of units was to preserve green space on the site and maintain deep buffers from neighbors.
Civico’s proposal, in contrast, features smaller buildings spread out over the site, which would meet height requirements but result in less green space. The committee will have to balance the size and mass of the buildings with preservation of green space, said task force chair Elaine McIlroy.
Looking at POAH’s plan for a 41-foot-high building that would house 22 units, Bacon thought it took “a lot of creative license,” based on what the town asked for in its request for proposals.
The Community Builders had some 2½-story buildings, which would likely be 40 feet high, said task force member Jan Plaue. Those also would require a height variance from the town.
Terkanian said the town’s requirement for 46 units created a situation where developers could “either go out or up to achieve the density.”
Curt Felix, chair of the Wellfleet Clean Water Advisory Committee, told the task force he is willing to meet with project abutters, since one of their primary concerns has been over the potential impact of wastewater on the area.
“We want to make sure we hear all their questions and that they are answered as fully as possible,” said McIlroy.
The town plans to install a sewer system and treatment plant to handle wastewater from the development, the police and fire stations, and the school. Treated water will go into a leaching field installed under the ballfield. Because the system will treat waste from the three town buildings as well as the development, it should lower overall nitrogen loading in the area, Felix said.