FRAMINGHAM – The 11-member Framingham City Council unanimously voted to send a proposed amendment to the zoning bylaw in regards to adult housing back to the Framingham Planning Board.
Prior to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting the Council’s subcommittee on zoning & planning met and discussed the bylaw. The subcommittee voted 3-0 to recommend the full Council refer back the proposed zoning amendment.
Subcommittee Chair Charlie Sisitsky said the subcommittee didn’t think it was right to present changes to the City Council at the last minute on the July 3 draft document, without fully vetting them.
“We felt we could not adequately recommend additional changes,” said Sisitsky.
“We entertained a lot of nuisances related to this,” said District 6 City Councilor Mike Rossi. “Rather than try to make the changes on the fly, we felt it was more important to consolidate those issues, send it back to the Planning Board, and have them take another look at it, and bring it back. Cutting and pasting at the subcommittee is not the right way to go.”
This resets the clock on the proposed zoning amendment, as the City Council had until January 9 to make a decision.
Last year, Northside Meadow a 55-plus development on Pleasant Street applied with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to record its affordable housing units. The State rejected the application, as individuals under age 18 were prohibited from the units.
To fix the problem, the Framingham Planning Board recommended a change to the City’s Zoning bylaw, allowing developers to make cash payments in lieu of constructing new affordable housing.
The City would then develop affordable housing, using money from developers.
Tuesday night, attorney Paul Galvani, who represents Northside Meadows, and another approved development at Millwood said he was “frustrated” with the City.
“When this issue came up last spring, the Planning Board sought to address it. Advertised this bylaw in May. Has held I don’t know how many hearing on it between May and October – six, eight,” said Galvani. “We attended everyone of them. The Brendon Properties Northside Meadow project is over two-third complete and sold. Has six units that are supposed to be made affordable, but can’t be made affordable on site. So the specific amendment was discussed. The Planning Board said a cash payment could be made to the City to be used for affordable housing. I attended three meetings of the City Council’s zoning subcommittee, and at the last one an approval was recommended … I attended three more meetings of this Council, the last of which you voted to approve on the first reading. I was not even aware that the subcommittee was going to meet again.”
Galvani said on December 20, he appeared before the Framingham Planning Board to amend the decision of Brendon Properties. He said that amendment specifically reference the proposed bylaw, at the first reading to “provide a solution to this issue.”
“Now I am hearing it is being sent back,” said Galvani to the Council. “That keeps the Pleasant Street property in limbo.” And “I don’t know how many more months this will go one now,” said Galvani.
Galvani said people had the opportunity to make amendments over the months of the public process.
“I’m at a loss after all this work, and all these meetings, it is going back to square one,” said Galvani.
Galvani told the Council he has a ruling from the Planning Board from December 20, 2018, that would have allowed payment to the City instead of constructing the affordable apartments, as the construction of “affordable apartments has become a legal impossibility.”
“It is not our intent to delay this. It is our intent to make this right,” said Rossi, who serves on the zoning subcommittee.
City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll said she has no issue with the cash payment but she had issues on how the money received by the City would be spent.
She said she hoped the Planning Board could get this on their agenda quickly.
Brendon Properties is building 60 condominiums. Two-thirds of the Pleasant Street development are already under agreement or occupied.
The Planning Board also approved a 55-plus development on the former Millwood Farms Golf Course. Capital Group Properties was approved to build 129 units, of which 13 would be affordable.
But last year, the developers Capital Group agreed to provide the City a cash payment of 50 percent of the construction cost for each unit, minus the land costs.