About a dozen residents from Bourne Village attended last night’s meeting of the Bourne Board of Appeals, which is reviewing the 58-unit affordable housing complex proposed for the now-closed Kempton J. Coady School property. The apartment complex would cater to residents 55 years and older.
Review of the plans for the school building and a planned addition at the 85 Cotuit Road property began on December 5 and was continued to a December 19 site visit.
Residents attended this week’s meeting to hear the project proponents answer the questions and concerns that had been raised about the proposed apartment complex, which is to be made up of all affordable units.
At the start of the meeting, Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino read a letter from the town into the record, reaffirming officials’ support of the Peabody-based Stratford Capital Group’s project.
Richard A. Hayden of the Stratford Capital Group showed meeting attendees a drawing of how the completed complex would look, pointing out a redesign of the façade of the addition prompted by the Department of Housing and Community Development, which wanted the addition to blend more with the historical building. The new design gave the addition a brick front.
Since one of the questions raised concerned how many people could live in the apartments, as designed, Stratford Capital’s spokesman said there would be one studio apartment in the complex, which could accommodate one person. There would be 31 one-bedroom apartments, which would have an occupancy limit of two persons, and 26 two-bedroom apartments with a maximum occupancy of four persons.
Concerns had also been raised about parking.
Stratford Capital spokesmen said that all cars in the other, similar projects that they have developed in Athol, Weymouth, and Peabody are registered with the management company that runs them. A look at those cars showed, they said, that most of the units in those projects had only one car. The highest number of vehicles per unit was in Peabody, where there were still fewer than an average of 1.5 cars per unit.
They anticipated, they said, about 1.3 cars per unit in Bourne.
Residents, however, expressed concern that, given the properties proximity to the Cape Cod Canal, that the rental complex would attract fishermen or others with younger families who would make the Bourne complex different from the usual elderly housing.
It might, they said, attract more cars.
Mr. Hayden said the other Massachusetts complexes had residents whose average age was between 64 or 65 and 72. He said 82 percent of the residents were over 55.
Increased traffic was another issue that had been raised by residents in last month’s meetings.
The project’s traffic engineer presented data gathered over a 10-year period by the Cape Cod Commission that showed the amount of traffic in the area going down slightly in the area.
Those studies, however, looked at key points, not at small Cotuit Road in particular. That road, which has only a handful of houses on it, residents said, has become increasing clogged as drivers use it as a cut through between Trowbridge and Sandwich Roads in an attempt to avoid backups, including those at the Bourne rotary.
George E. Carson of nearby Keene Street said the road could not handle another 100 cars, adding that “there is so much traffic it’s crazy now.”
Another resident said buses would begin to stop there, shuttling elderly residents, and traffic would get “piled up.”
A Sandwich Road, Bourne Village, homeowner said she had difficulty getting out of the driveway at times.
Project proponents, however, said the addition of the units, with the low volume of cars they are expected to attract, would not make any “appreciable change” to the traffic situation.
That analysis, they said, was based on their experience in other communities, prompting at least one resident to question how similar those projects were to Bourne’s. Mr. Hayden said all of three complexes they referenced were in a fairly rural area and were near ball fields, and while Peabody and Weymouth are both larger than Bourne, the complexes were not in an urban area where residents could walk to a store, for example.
M. Elizabeth Ellis of Sagamore rose at that point to support the project, saying that the new Market Basket in her village brought some increased traffic, but the trade off was worth it. She told the zoning board that she thought something would be built on the Coady school site, and since the town did not want to take it over, she thought the Stratford Capital Group’s proposal was a good one that would save the historic character of the school. It was, she said, far better than what might happen if someone else bought the property, razed the school, and “put up a big box.”
Issues including the turning radius around the building and addition, security at the proposed complex, and whether a fence was needed to keep balls from the nearby field from hitting residents’ cars were also raised.
Residents also wanted to know how the residents of the complex would be vetted, were it to be built. A spokesman for the developer said the management company looks at everything from income levels to a criminal background check before residents are approved. Crime or other similar problems had never been an issue.
While some of the residents of the group’s other apartment complexes were living on Social Security, they had a proven track record of paying their rent.
He invited residents to visit one of the group’s other renovated schools, saying he would provide a bus to Weymouth, if they wanted.
A resident, in turn, stood up invite the project’s applicants to come by his house on a Saturday to count passing cars.
The board said it wanted to have written comments on the project from the police department, and residents requested a drawing showing how the project would look from Sandwich Road.
Residents appeared to be unconvinced, with one woman saying that she had no objection to the project, in concept, but thought 58 units to be too many for quiet, historical Bourne Village.
Daniel Warncke, a resident of the area for 37 years who attended Coady, as did previous generations of his family, stood to say he would not have bought his property if he had known that 89 bedrooms of low-income housing could be sited so near it.
He said the complex would bring “major changes in the neighborhood,” and in spite of sentiment, he would rather see the building razed.
His comments prompted clapping from several meeting attendees.
The matter was continued to February 6 at 7:40 PM when the zoning board again meets in the lower conference room of town hall.