Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 on Thursday, July 19, to approve Habitat for Humanity’s revised plan to create a subdivision with 10 single-family dwellings on five-and-a-half acres off Barrows Road. Habit has applied under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law.
Following the vote, the nearly 30 attendees applauded what ZBA chairman Terrence J. Hurrie called “a well-received project.”
Habitat first brought the project before the planning board in June 2016 and the ZBA’s last hearing on it was April 19.
The property is bordered by Leonard Drive on the east and by larger residential parcels off Fresh Pond Road to the west.
The looped road within the development will be private, with a proposed name of Willett Way. Maintenance of Willett Way and the common areas of the neighborhood will fall under the responsibility of a homeowners’ association of which Habitat will be a non-voting member for at least 20 years. The site is not an area of critical environmental concern; however, it is in a coastal pond overlay district.
Plans depict a road leading from the front of the property, winding through the neighborhood with houses on either side and ending at a cul-de-sac designed large enough to allow turn-around for emergency vehicles.
A housing lottery overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development would give preference to those living or working in Falmouth.
The original plans for the property, purchased for $340,000 with Community Preservation Act funds, called for 12 ranch homes on a 5.57-acre triangular lot.
Warren H. Brodie, representing the applicant, said that a 10-home configuration composed of seven three-bedroom homes and three two-bedroom homes would make the subdivision “feel airier and a lot less dense.”
The average lot size would increase from about 13,000 to about 15,000 square feet. One lot would be slightly larger because of the geometry of development.
“We are still taking the position that you could approve a 12-lot subdivision as originally submitted,” Mr. Brodie said. “Don’t reject the 12 out of hand, but the 10 is here before you to be acted on.”
In its revised plans to address concerns the ZBA expressed in April, the applicant clarified that each lot would have its own lamppost and that most homes would have split-rail fences, to be maintained by the individual homeowners, between the lots. Also, paved driveway areas would be at least five feet from the lot lines.
Regarding parking, Ms. Brodie said each house’s 19-foot-by-seven-foot parking area can contain five passenger vehicles.
“So we’re questioning the need for additional parking if every house could have the potential for five vehicles parking there,” he said.
Addressing the need for a school bus shelter, Mr. Brodie said that only East Falmouth Elementary School students would be affected. Older students would go to bus stops close to the development.
“The only people a bus shelter will serve are kindergartners through 4th graders, and I’ll submit to you that they’re probably waiting in mom and dad’s car at the end of the street waiting for the bus to stop,” he said. “If you sincerely believe a bus shelter is necessary—and we think it’s a magnet for bad behavior and adds very little value to the development—we would consider setting aside some funds to purchase one if it were necessary, but we don’t even know if there would be kindergartners through 4th graders in this development, at least not until our families are selected.”
The final issue was over whether sidewalks are necessary in the development.
“Sidewalks aren’t that common in Falmouth, even in upscale developments like Rivers Edge, which is also off Barrows Road and is about 40 units of housing,” Mr. Brodie said. “Our roads are 20 feet plus berms. We really don’t believe sidewalks are necessary, especially as this is off a cul-de-sac development where sidewalks would be little used anyway.”
Mr. Hurrie asked if the homeowners’ association could provide a bench on the common area at the elementary school bus stop, and Mr. Brodie said that could be easily done.
During the public comment period, Holly Wilson, chairman of the affordable housing committee and a member of the community preservation committee, said both committees voted to submit letters of support and to fund the land purchase.
“This is the kind of thing we need in Falmouth,” she said.
After ZBA members expressed their support for the revised project, Mr. Hurrie said, “It was a well-received project to begin with, and you definitely performed your due diligence with regard to the few minor concerns that we had, so I think with these changes it’s an even better project for Habitat.”