WELLFLEET — The committee charged with recommending the best developer for 46 affordable rental units to be built on Lawrence Road has started rating the three proposals submitted, and the front runner so far is a national nonprofit that has chosen to work with a local partner.
The rating process is not yet complete, with references still being collected and financial analyses just begun. And the 95 Lawrence Road Task Force does not have to recommend that the select board award the project to the firm with the highest score.
But in the initial run through, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) racked up the largest number of “highly advantageous” grades — the top score task force members can award. POAH is partnering with the Community Development Partnership, an Eastham-based nonprofit.
Another national nonprofit, the Community Builders, and the Hopedale-based for-profit Civico Development are also getting high marks.
Once the task force’s scoring process is complete, the members will come to a consensus. They plan to present their recommendation to the select board on Oct. 26.
Each of the eight task force members gave their preliminary scores at a meeting in September. Members can assign one of three grades in several categories: “Unacceptable,” if they feel the proposal failed to meet the criteria in the town’s request for proposals; “Advantageous,” if the developer met some or all of the RFP criteria; or “Highly Advantageous,” if the developer met or exceeded all the criteria.
The categories for scoring that the task force has so far completed are developer experience and capacity, affordability, site design, building design, and infrastructure and green design. Additional ratings for financial feasibility, references, site visits, and interviews still await consideration.
The grades so far: 32 Highly Advantageous, 6 Advantageous, 2 Unacceptable.
The proposal: A $20.2-million plan in which all 46 units would be rented to tenants earning 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). The Upper Village area would include 24 townhouse units of two and three bedrooms in seven buildings. The Lower Village would feature a single three-story building with 22 one- and two-bedroom units.
The ratings: All eight task force members graded the POAH-CDP partnership Highly Advantageous for experience and capacity and for affordability.
“I think it is the perfect combination of what we had in mind,” Jan Plaue said of the nonprofits’ proposed mix of renters’ incomes. Eight units would be for households earning no more than 30 percent of the AMI; 27 units would be for tenants earning no more than 60 percent of the AMI; 11 units would be for tenants earning between 60 and 80 percent of AMI.
The proposal also received Highly Advantageous ratings from all members for infrastructure and green energy. POAH had proposed meeting the “passive house” standard for energy efficiency. “They were the only ones who made clear what they were going to do,” said task force chair Elaine McIlroy.
In the categories of site design and building design, the proposal got mixed reviews. Plaue gave POAH’s site design an Unacceptable, saying she didn’t like the plan because of the large building with 22 units. “It’s just not Wellfleet,” she said. “I think that’s the kind of trigger that will upset the neighbors.”
Plaue also rated it Unacceptable for building design, for similar reasons.
Most of the task force members were comfortable with the site design but debated features of the large building. Gary Sorkin questioned the height — 41 feet 7 inches — calling it “substantially beyond” the town’s 28-foot height limit in the residential district. Documents provided by POAH showed the ridge height of the nearby Wellfleet Police Station as 40 feet.
Elaine McIlroy characterized the building design as “very handsome,” but added she was concerned about whether town boards would approve it.
Harry Terkanian said that, given the town’s request for 46 units, developers had to “build up or build out.” He and one other task force member graded the POAH proposal Highly Advantageous for its building design.
The Community Builders
The grades so far: 20 Highly Advantageous, 15 Advantageous, 0 Unacceptable.
(Note: task force member Kathleen Bacon’s five grades are not included in this total because she left the meeting before this developer’s proposal was evaluated.)
The proposal: A $19.3-million plan with all 46 units for tenants at or below 80 percent of AMI. The project is divided into two areas. Schoolhouse Corner includes 15 apartments in four cottages and one larger building. Lawrence Green includes 31 apartments housed in 2½-story duplexes. Six units for tenants at about 30 percent of AMI, 27 at 60 percent of AMI, and 13 units up to 80 percent of AMI.
The ratings: Like POAH, the Community Builders received high scores, predominantly Highly Advantageous, both for their experience and for the affordability mix they propose.
Some elements of the site design elicited discussion. “I felt it was a long walk from the parking lot to the front doors, especially if you’re carrying groceries,” said Olga Kahn. McIlroy said she felt the design had no “oomph.” Task force members handed out a couple of Highly Advantageous votes amid a majority of Advantageous ones.
Building design also drew a mixed response, although ratings converged on Advantageous with one Highly Advantageous. “I don’t like the look of it,” said Plaue. “I think it’s very boring.” James Hood agreed, saying the proposed structures were “massive and uninteresting.”
The grades so far: 10 Highly Advantageous, 29 Advantageous, 1 Unacceptable
The proposal: Civico’s $14.6-million submission calls for 40 one- and two-bedroom units in 10 New England-style manor houses, and 6 three-bedroom units in individual cottages. Four units would be for tenants earning up to 30 percent of AMI; 29 for those earning up to 80 percent of AMI; and 13 for those earning up to 110 percent AMI.
The ratings: Civico got all Advantageous grades for meeting most or all RFP requirements for experience. Highly Advantageous marks were missing because they were seen as having less experience than the other bidders. Harry Terkanian said his vote was based on the fact that Civico only listed projects in Lincoln and Reading, and the fact that the company is only six years old. Jay Horowitz called the company “a little light on top with just two or three guys.”
The company also scored Advantageous for affordability. In the RFP, the Highly Advantageous rating was reserved for projects with 85 percent of the units at or below 80 percent of AMI. Civico proposes that just over 70 percent be reserved for those at or below 80 percent.
“I was very unsatisfied with just four units under 30 percent AMI,” Plaue said.
Civico earned Highly Advantageous ratings for infrastructure and green energy, with seven of the eight members giving top scores in that category.
The firm received mostly Advantageous ratings for site design, with Kahn commenting that the layout and design of the buildings were too similar and thus “boring.” The project also lacked a community building, members said. Lack of space for an onsite manager and lack of laundry hookups and storage rooms were also discussed. Bacon and Plaue saw things differently, rating the project Highly Advantageous for site design.
There is still time for members to change their ratings. “I expect at our next meeting some will change,” McIlroy said in an email. As of press time on Tuesday, Oct. 5, the group’s next meeting date had not yet been set.
“The general picture as it stands now is that POAH has the most Highly Advantageous ratings, followed by the Community Builders, and then Civico, but all three have a healthy number of Advantageous ratings, too,” McIlroy explained.
“Minds are open and pencils are sharpened as we complete our due diligence and more discussion takes place,” she said.