Neighbors of a new Chapter 40B project in Hatchville that went before the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday, October 3, complained that the development was out of character for the area, had too many units for the property and would contribute to light pollution.
The project, Crooked Meadow Condominium, has been in the works for some time. The applicant’s representative, Nick Mirrione of Mirrione Realty, and engineer, Michael Borselli, presented rough plans to the Falmouth Planning Board in May.
John DeSangro of Northstar Construction, a Falmouth-based residential development company, hopes to build six duplexes on 1.91 acres off Crooked Meadow Road in East Falmouth. Each unit will total 1,150 square feet and the project will yield a total of three affordable units that will count as part of the town’s subsidized housing inventory.
The development will be housed on four lots that the applicant has secured through a purchase and sale agreement, contingent on comprehensive permit approval from the zoning board of appeals.
At the zoning board of appeals hearing last week, Mr. Mirrione displayed plans that show six duplexes wrapped around a “u-shaped” shared driveway. The layout shows two parking spaces per unit, and guest parking along the length of the driveway. The units will be connected to a shared septic system, located on the interior of the driveway, beneath a grass field.
Once built, the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath units will be listed for sale at $339,000, Mr. Mirrione told the board. The affordable units will be priced around $235,000 each and sold through a housing lottery, Mr. Mirrione said. That number may change by the time the housing lottery for those units open. The state-regulated affordable home sale price fluctuates because it is determined based on low- and moderate-income households spending no more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
Owners of each unit in the development will pay a mandatory monthly condominium fee of $192, Mr. Mirrione added. That fee pays for trash collection, snow removal, lawn maintenance and insurance. It also includes a Sandpointe Shores Homeowners Association membership. Crooked Meadow Condominium residents will have access to tennis courts and two private beaches on Jenkins Pond: Dudley Beach and Colonel Keenan. The membership fee also goes toward water testing, beach security, property maintenance and liability insurance.
The price of the Crooked Meadow affordable units came up several times during the hearing. With the developers of two affordable condominiums in North Falmouth without applicants two weeks before the close of its lottery application period, some suggested the units were priced too high for their income qualifications. Those units were priced at $232,584 each, with a $157 monthly condominium fee.
Appeals board member Robert Dugan asked if Mr. Mirrione was concerned about finding applicants for the affordable units in the Crooked Meadow development. Mr. Mirrione responded that he believed a lottery agent would be able to find qualified applicants in and around Falmouth. He attributed a lack of applicants for the North Falmouth condominiums to a lack of advertising beyond Falmouth.
Mr. Dugan noted that there was already a letter of opposition on file. The letter’s author, Megan Lumsden of Crooked Meadow Road, requested that it be read onto the record, Mr. Dugan said.
Ms. Lumsden in her letter suggested that a 12-unit development could potentially add 80 people to the neighborhood, which was “excessive and ridiculous.”
“The ranch-style duplex does not fit Cape Cod life one bit. I do not want to be able to see it from my property!” she wrote. Ms. Lumsden also expressed concern about light pollution affecting her property across the street.
Mr. Mirrione responded to some of Ms. Lumsden’s concerns. Lighting on the property will be limited to post lights at the end of each walkway leading to the front door. Each unit will also have a porch light by the front door.
Chairman Terrence J. Hurrie asked whether the applicant would be amenable to installing dark-sky compliant lighting. This type of light fixture casts light downward to limit light pollution. Mr. Mirrione said that the applicant would be amenable to ensuring that lighting on the property will be dark-sky compliant.
Mr. Dugan said that he chose not read a portion of the letter aloud, in which Ms. Lumsden wrote, “Is there going to be a background investigation on tenants? I do not want sexual predators living across the street, and who is going to be responsible if something happens? The Town of Falmouth, that’s who!” Mr. Dugan referred to the comment as derogatory.
Nancy Sinclair of Shagbark Lane said she had been taking notes during the hearing and would be submitting her thoughts as a formal letter to the board. “I would urge every single one of you to go and look at this location… It should not be allowed in my opinion,” Ms. Sinclair said.
Timothy Smith of Deer Pond Road, an abutter to the rear of the property, read a letter on behalf of some of his neighbors. He noted that he was still collecting signatures in support of his comments and would submit it for the record sometime after the meeting.
“We stand here tonight united as abutters and concerned neighbors opposing the proposed 40B development on Crooked Meadow Road,” Mr. Smith said, “The cost associated with trying to fight these projects on a legal front are high, and the average resident cannot afford to wage a fight that will be surely lost on appeal, but here we are. The only power we have is in our voices.”
Mr. Smith asked the zoning board of appeals to consider the size and scope of the project, pointing out that the development seemed to be too dense for a neighborhood made up of single-family homes on larger parcels.
“The thought of a developer coming in and clear-cutting the property to create a for-profit development is difficult to comprehend and I don’t believe in all honesty that affordable housing is the drive for this project,” Mr. Smith wrote in an email to the zoning board of appeals on September 5. He asked for appropriate fencing and screening around the development.
Mr. Smith asked how far the zoning board of appeals could go to address concerns about density, traffic, and light pollution.
“We do take into consideration the abutters and their concerns and we try to work with applicants the best we can in terms of coming up with what we feel is a good project for the community,” said Mr. Hurrie, the chairman of the board.
“The zoning board itself has a lot of the same frustrations,” said board member Kenneth Foreman, “We see a lot of these projects. Our hands are tied to some degree by the state statutes. Is this the best way to create affordable housing? I don’t think so. I don’t think many of us do. Can we impose some limitations? The answer is, if there are some significant local concerns that we can cite, it may be possible. Density alone isn’t sufficient. That’s not a criteria that the housing appeals committee considers valid. So we need to think carefully about what the valid concerns are.”
“We do review everything that is submitted,” Mr. Dugan reiterated, encouraging anyone with concerns to submit them to the zoning office while the file is open.