TRURO — A group of residents who have filed suit to block the Cloverleaf affordable housing development at 22 Highland Road in North Truro may be required to post a $50,000 bond with the Land Court to cover the extra expenditures their appeal is requiring of the town and the project developer.
Truro officials and Ted Malone, the president of Community Housing Resource of Provincetown, have invoked a new provision in the state’s housing choice law that allows judges to order those who appeal permits for affordable projects to post bonds of up to $50,000.
If the court grants the town’s request for the bond and the neighbors lose their appeal, they also lose their bond money, which would then go toward covering the town’s and Malone’s related costs.
That includes attorney fees and increases in the cost of building the Cloverleaf as time passes.
This new provision in the housing choice law, which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in January, is designed to discourage neighbors from filing frivolous suits to delay affordable housing developments or prevent them from being built.
At the heart of the Truro case is the 39-unit project planned for four acres the state gave to the town in 2017 for the specific purpose of constructing affordable housing. The state furthered its commitment to the venture by awarding the town a $2.1-million grant to build a water line to the target site.
The town selected Community Housing Resource as the developer and plans to retain ownership of the property under a long-term lease.
After a year of contentious hearings, with residents circulating petitions and arguing that the project’s wastewater treatment system would contaminate their drinking water, the town’s zoning board of appeals granted Malone a comprehensive permit under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law.
The permit was quickly appealed by opponents of the project in Barnstable Superior Court. The case was moved over to state Land Court during the summer.
While towns sometimes step back and let developers deal with court battles like this one, Truro has filed a motion to intervene in the case and plans to take an active role.
The list of plaintiffs suing the town includes Lauren Anderson of 30 Highland Road; Helen Torelli of 9 Twine Field Road; John, Brianna, and Mary Bobola of 7 Windago Lane; Rosemary Broton Boyle of 43 Knowles Heights Road; Abby Lynn Corea of 1 Toms Hill Path; George Dineen of 22 Great Hollow Road; Susan Grace of 28 Windago Lane; Barbara Golding of 17 Great Hollow Road; Samantha Hayman of 17C Great Hollow Road; Joanne Hollander of 13 Toms Hill Path; Donald Horton of 5 Longnook Road; Alice Longley of 39 Knowles Heights Road; Eve Turchinetz of 22 Great Hollow Road; and Christine Maxwell, whose property at 24 Highland Road abuts the Cloverleaf site.
In his filing for the town, attorney Jonathan Silverstein of KP Law noted that the project involves “significant cooperative efforts between the town, the Commonwealth and [Community Housing Resource] for almost four years.” He pointed out that only 2.3 percent of Truro’s housing stock is certified as affordable by the state.
“Every month of additional delay caused by the plaintiffs’ appeal imposes substantial carrying costs and delays and jeopardizes the town’s ability to provide critically needed affordable housing,” wrote Silverstein.
He also questioned whether the residents who signed on to the suit had legal standing as aggrieved parties. Other than Maxwell, who was belatedly added to the list of plaintiffs, none are abutters of the Highland Road target site. They do not live down-gradient from the site, so their wells would not be in jeopardy of contaminated from the development’s wastewater, Silverstein argued. The plaintiffs won’t be affected by increased traffic from the project, he also argued, any more than “the general public” would be.
Attorney David Reid of South Yarmouth, who represents the residents who filed the suit, said in an email that he will oppose the request for the $50,000 bond. “We do not believe it is justified or warranted,” he said.
Land Court Judge Diane Rubin could rule on the request for the bond soon or wait and hear arguments during a hearing scheduled for Nov. 8, Silverstein said.
The Land Court has set aside the week of April 18, 2022 for a trial on the Cloverleaf suit.
Silverstein has also asked for an injunction, on behalf of the town, against Christine Maxwell, who has habitually used a driveway on the town’s Highland Road property as an access from Route 6 to her own property next door. She also has her own driveway.
The town sent a cease-and-desist order to Maxwell during the summer, telling her to stop using the driveway on the town-owned property. She, and those visiting her, continued to use the driveway despite the town order, Silverstein said in his court filing. The town was forced “to erect concrete barriers to effectively block her access, at significant expense to the town,” the attorney wrote.
Maxwell’s continued use of the driveway “constitutes an invasion of the town’s interest in the exclusive possession of its land, and of the town’s control over such land to ensure that it is used for affordable housing purposes,” wrote Silverstein.
Historic use of the driveway could work in favor of Maxwell and the other plaintiffs in the suit because it might give her some claim to continued use and upset the layout of the development.
In his email, Reid said he is still researching how long the driveway through the town property has been there.
“It was certainly there for many years before the town acquired the property, and they knew about it before being deeded the property by the state,” Reid wrote. “It’s even shown on their own plan of the property.”