By Jeffrey Epstein
A creative proposal for a small “village-style” residential complex came before the Planning Board August 14, an introduction designed to give the town plenty of notice and opportunity for input.
Attorney Pamela Brown of the Brown and Brown law firm presented the redevelopment concept on behalf of Steve and Jennifer Soillis. The lots involved are 330 South Road and 9 and 11 Summer Street, adjacent addresses at the intersection of South Road and Summer Street. Each address contains a single-family home, but there are also two barns in the back (the larger a 40’ x 80’ structure dating to 1920), and two garages. One of the buildings is a multi-family house with an office. Even though the zoning is primarily Residence C, there is a small area of Limited Business at the South Road frontage and some commercial uses.
The owners figure they need to get 16-20 rental units on the property to make the project financially feasible. Brown declared that the properties now are “non-conforming” but said the suggested high-density redevelopment plan would be “less non-conforming than what is there now.” She anticipated a variance request to the Zoning Board of Appeals in the future.
New small cottages are possible, as is converting one or more of the houses into apartments. But the historic barns are problematic, Brown acknowledged — they sit on ancient fieldstone foundations that probably will need to be replaced. If the buildings are preserved and used, though, they might be moved.
The board’s reaction to the scheme was generally skeptical, especially since the plan doesn’t fit under existing rules. Only five units are permitted under the “cluster” residential bylaw; under PRD zoning nine units would be permitted. Still, said member Jacinda Barbehenn, there is a need for more housing and less parking, and landscaping would be welcome.
Several board members also expressed the hope that at least some of the new residential units would be designated “affordable” as opposed to market rate. Chair Amy Lloyd made a point of saying that often developers promise affordable units in the planning phase of a project, but they aren’t actually affordable by the time the units go to market.
No official action was taken. The property owners now will go off to find an architect who presumably enjoys challenges.