On August 2, the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals discussed the comprehensive permit for The Little Pond Village at Falmouth Heights affordable housing project.
The board unanimously voted to direct zoning administrator Sari D. Budrow to draft an affirmative decision for board review during the open meeting portion of the hearing next Thursday, August 16.
At a ZBA meeting on June 7, residents cited concerns about density, safety, drainage and storm-related damage.
The Little Pond Village at Falmouth Heights, a proposed Chapter 40B project from Helmis Circle LLC, would place 28 houses—a mixture of Capes and saltboxes—on 4.9 acres of land between Alma Road and Worcester Court. Seven of these houses, or 25 percent of the development, would be sold as affordable units.
At a public hearing in January, the applicant said that the 1,700-square-foot homes would have three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, except for three ranch-style houses with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Twenty-four lots would allow the homeowners to build sunrooms, and up to 10 lots could have a garage and a storage shed each.
During the open hearing on August 2, the developer and applicant, Randal Lilly, said that the project represents “a pedestrian-friendly Cape Cod village.”
“I could have asked for more but tried to be compatible to surrounding homes, taking density and other factors into consideration,” he said. “I tried to be responsive to all the board’s concerns. It has been an extensive process. These are modest-size single-family homes.”
The applicant’s engineer, Brandon Carr, a project manager for DiPrete Engineering, said no changes have been made to the layout or design.
“The conservation commission hearings are concluded, and the project was approved and an order of conditions was issued,” he said. “We are appealing the order with the Department of Environmental Protections to clear up some language. There are tree removal issues that remain in response to a letter from the town tree warden. I have walked the site with an arborist who has recommendations that will be implemented. We intend to keep an arborist on throughout the project.”
The applicant has submitted a revised list of wetlands waivers for the conservation commission, he said.
“The easement width was addressed, and town road standards are being followed,” he said. “The road will be two feet wider than a town road, and the applicant is asking for geometric waivers. Some units were repositioned.”
Garages will be allocated to two of the affordable units, he said. The road will be private and maintained by the homeowners association.
“There will be no need for town access to the easements as described in the covenants,” he said. “There will be small eight-inch pipes that will be accessed by hand. We do not propose a play area, as Gus Canty Community Center and Falmouth Heights Beach are both a short walk and the homes will have private back yards.”
Mr. Budrow said, for clarification, she forwarded the letter from the applicant’s arborist to the town tree warden/arborist who sent the board recommendations.
“He submitted a letter stating he agrees with applicant’s arborist and there are no issues,” she said.
The driveways will be installed as pervious and sized to handle runoff, Mr. Carr said, but there will be no restrictions on the owners to continue to keep them pervious.
Vice chairman Kenneth H. Foreman asked Mr. Carr why the homes need both garages and sheds.
“Not all houses would have both,” Mr. Carr said. “The maximum buildout shows choices for the owners.”
When the senior center gets rid of its playground, Mr. Foreman said there will be a 1,500-foot, heavily trafficked area that is not appropriate for small children to travel on their own.
“I would like to see an 8,000-foot open area for recreational activity,” he said.
Chairman Terrence J. Hurrie said, with respect to 40B regulations and the allocation rights for garages for the affordable lots and the lot sizes, the market lots are much larger than the affordable lots.
“The board has seen 40B projects in the past that proposed play areas,” he said. “Why not here?”
Mr. Carr said, regardless of lot size, there are back yards and that apartment projects with playgrounds do not have back yards.
“If the children are very young and use the Gus Canty play area, they are supervised by parents,” he said. “As they get older, there are ball fields still at Gus Canty and other recreational things for older kids.”
Mr. Foreman asked the applicant if it would be possible to eliminate garages to address the lot-size inequity issue and side-yard setback issues.
“There is an issue of having a little open space for people to gather,” he said. “Back yards are small on most lots and not adequate for recreational activity. It is not a density issue, but an issue of providing adequate amenities. With tight side yards there are potential problems with snow removal.”
The applicant agreed that if they were to get the decision for the 28 houses, they would agree to eliminate garages.
“There still needs to be some space for amenities, which will probably trigger an appeal,” Mr. Foreman said.
Member Paul Murphy said he opposed the amenities and disagreed with the other board members on certain points.
“There is a presumption the town needs affordable housing and the board could condition it to death,” he said. “It is time to move this along. I completely disagree with the conditions of impervious driveways and stormwater design. This is not a 120-unit project.”
Mr. Hurrie said the board should not base its opinion on the possibility of an appeal.
“It is an amazing concession about the garages,” he said. “I admire the applicant’s idea for offering so many variations of the project. 40Bs are usually cookie-cutter.”
During the public comment period, Falmouth Selectman Samuel H. Patterson addressed the board as an individual and not as a selectman.
“I have been to a number of workshops on the affordable housing challenge,” he said. “The senior center playground may be completed by the time the entire development is complete. Little Pond Place includes additional property, and it is a block away with a playground. The recreation committee is agreeable at a community level to put in additional areas.”
Michael Hatch of 64 Alma Road said that once trees around the project are eliminated, other trees will be subject to uprooting.
“The town arborist brought this up in his report and mentioned susceptibility to windthrow,” he said. “Both arborists looked at the project in a vacuum. The problem could be easily solved by increasing the proposed 10-foot buffer along the Alma Road side to 20 feet and make it a ‘Do Not Disturb.’ “
Ms. Budrow said the arborists were “not asked to look at this in a vacuum” and that all plans were reviewed and considered.
Edward Jalowiec of 54 Alma Road said he read the developer’s arborist’s report.
“It doesn’t reference any trees more than 14 inches in diameter. There are a number of trees larger than that,” he said.
Under conservation commission rules, he said 13 of these homes could not be built because they are within the buffer zone of the coastal banks.
“Sewer projects are maxed out, and the town will be looking at a multimillion-dollar expansion of its sewer system,” he said. “The infrastructure is not there.”
The applicant said the board has a letter from town counsel stating that there is no waiver or variance needed for and there are no issues with sewer capacity and that the letter from the applicant’s arborist says the majority of the trees are 14 inches in diameter.
Following public comment, Mr. Foreman asked Ms. Budrow to prepare a draft with appropriate conditions to be reviewed by the board at its August 16 meeting.
“The draft should include garages being removed,” he said. “I would still like to see some small amount of open space, preferably 4,000 square feet.”
Ms. Budrow said the board is “headed toward making a decision and [is] now talking about a play area after having closed the hearing.”
“Where does the board suggest the applicant find that land?” she said. “The board agreed with the applicant when he stated if he gets the 28 units, he will eliminate the garages.”
Mr. Murphy said it is up to the board to find that space.
After some discussion about the square footage, the board agreed to go with 4,000 square feet.