A legal tussle is on the horizon between the Town of Bourne and the developer of Pilgrim Pines in Bournedale. At issue is whether the man at the helm of the development, Brian E. Hebbs, is entitled by state law to a reduction in the number of affordable housing units he was required to build under the conditions of his original comprehensive permit.
Mr. Hebb and his attorney, J. Ford O’Connor, appeared before the Bourne Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, July 2. Mr. O’Connor informed the zoning board that because it had failed to respond to a request from Mr. Hebb for an amendment to his comprehensive permit within a state-mandated 20 days, the amendment is automatically approved under Massachusetts general law.
“They’re saying we missed a 20-day deadline,” said Lee A. Berger, chairman of the board of appeals.
Mr. Berger, a retired attorney, said he would be discussing the issue with town counsel Robert S. Troy.
In a letter to Mr. Berger, Mr. O’Connor stated that an application for an amended comprehensive permit for Pilgrim Pines was filed with the office of Bourne town clerk Barry H. Johnson on May 21. Mr. O’Connor said that the board of appeals did not respond to the application until June 16, well after the 20-day time period in which it is required by Massachusetts state law to respond.
“As such, the applicant’s request to reduce the number of affordable unit[s] to not less than 20% is deemed granted,” Mr. O’Connor’s letter said.
Mr. Hebb was issued a comprehensive permit for the Pilgrim Pines project in March 2003.
Under the terms of the original permit, it was stipulated that of every four homes he built, three would be market-rate units and one would be affordable housing, Mr. Berger said.
Mr. Berger said that it recently came to the attention of Bourne building inspector Roger M. Laporte that Mr. Hebb had recently built and sold 18 successive market-rate lots, in violation of the terms of the original permit. Mr.
Berger said that, in order to comply with the terms of the original permit, of the remaining 22 lots available, 11 must be built as affordable housing.
The town also has an issue with the development's roads.
Mr. Laporte said that under the conditions of the original comprehensive permit, roads in the development could be roughed out, with utility lines and/or sewer pipe connections in place. When a home was built, a simple connection to already established lines would then be completed, and the road had to be finished, he said.
That final layer of paving is still missing from the development’s roads, Mr. Laporte said. He specifically mentioned Settlers Way, Marisol Drive, Cordwood Circle and parts of Deseret Drive as still needing road work. He added that some of the sidewalks have been completed while others have not, and while the roads are paved and passable, “They won’t last without that topcoat.”
Mr. Laporte noted that the roads in the Pilgrim Pines development are private, which means the homeowners are responsible for their upkeep. He said the town should make ensure residents do not have to contend with inferior and incomplete roads.
In the request for an amendment, Mr. O’Connor explained that Mr. Hebb and the Pilgrim Pines project are presently in bankruptcy. The application for an amended permit was made because “the project is no longer economically viable under the present terms and conditions.” He said a plan has been presented to the bankruptcy court that would allow the project to move forward, but the plan only works with a reduction in the number of affordable units from 27 percent to 20 percent.
At this point, all but 22 of the homes in the development have been sold, he said.
Mr. O’Connor’s application to the board of appeals stated that it would cost $360,000 to finish the development’s road work, sidewalks and related infrastructure. Forcing Mr. Hebb to adhere to the conditions of the original permit would not generate enough money to finish the project, he said. The project would fall into Chapter 7 with all assets liquefied, he said.
“No further units would be built and the infrastructure would be not completed. This would impact the owners of the 102 houses completed to date,” he said.
Mr. O’Connor said that he had contacted William Reyelt of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. He said Mr. Reyelt assured him that a reduction in affordable housing units to 20 percent would not negatively impact the credit that Bourne has received from the state for the affordable housing units built so far in Pilgrim Pines.
Mr. Berger said that Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Hebb walked out of last week’s hearing immediately after stating their case that the Pilgrim Pines project is now constructively granted. There was no discussion of the issue.
However, there are legal questions that both Mr. Berger and Mr. Laporte are bringing to the attention of Mr. Troy.
The case was continued to the board of appeals next meeting on August 6.