Little Pond Village, Helmis Circle 40b Project Update (posted 12/19/17)

On Thursday, November 30, 2017, the Zoning Board of Appeals heard the developer’s presentation and citizens’ comments and questions about the 40b project proposed for Helmis Circle, parallel to Alma Road with entrances onto Worcester Court and onto Alma Road at the corner of Lucerne Ave. Each of the 28 lots will have a 1750 sq’, 3-bedroom home, resulting in up to 60% lot coverage.

Responding to a request from an abutter, the ZBA authorized the hiring of an independent engineer to assess water drainage into the surrounding areas including Little Pond, at a cost of up to $8,000 to be paid by the developers.

The ZBA continued the hearing until January 18, 2018 at 5:30 PM.

If you cannot attend the January meeting, you can email your comments and questions to the Zoning Board at falzba@falmouthmass.us Please note whether you generally support or oppose the project, if applicable. The file is available to review at the ZBA office, Town Hall, 2nd floor.

For more information:

1. Read our earlier posting for a description of the project including concerns about its impact on neighborhood density and the environment, and a list of variances being requested (setbacks as little as 2’, up to 60% lot coverage, etc.)

2. Read the Falmouth Enterprise article published on December 8, 2017, page 3.

3. Watch the meeting at FCTV Video on Demand on “part 2” (1 ½ hours) and “part 3” (1 hour).

Even if you are not interested in this particular project, you might want to watch this hearing because it provides a comprehensive, in-depth education regarding all the issues surrounding this 40b project. It is possible that more such 40b proposals may be coming to our neighborhoods in the future.

Some of the major issues discussed include:

1. Affordability: The location is favorable for a 40b project as it is relatively close to shops and public transportation. Seven of the 28 units will be offered at an affordable price of about $218,000 with the remainder at a market value of over $500,000. MA towns are required by law to have 10% of their housing inventory to be affordable. Falmouth has 6.39%. Adding 28 units to the inventory (to 14,997) with 7 affordable units (to 965) brings the increase to 6.43%. The developer said they began plans with 32 units and reduced that to 28 as being a number which makes financial sense.

2. Drainage: This property is in a coastal pond overlay district with 90% of the site being higher than the 100 year flood plain. The current design of the new road does not meet Town requirements for acceptance as a Town road. Although the Town will plow snow, there is no area planned to store snow from a major storm. The developer will consider modifying the plan. Per the developer’s engineer, the drainage system is designed for a 100 year storm (4″ of rain in 24 hrs.). This Fall, Falmouth had 6″ in 8 hours, causing a major flood on Main St. just north of this property and flooding of Alma Rd. backyards. Each home will have its own drywell to catch roof water. There will be catch basins and other infiltration drainage systems to ensure that other runoff will not affect abutters’ properties, Worcester Ct., Alma Rd., the remaining wetlands, and Little Pond. Does the project meet MA wetlands protections and coastal wetlands orders? Excavated material (each home has a basement) will be repositioned on the property. Will this change the grade such that the land will be higher, possibly exacerbating drainage issues? A new landscape plan will be provided. The Conservation Commission will also review this project.

3. Density
: The proposed 28 lots average 5862 sq’ with most between 4000-5000 sq’ and 5 lots under 4000 sq’. Falmouth has 376 lots between 4000-5000 sq’, 215 under 4000 sq’ with 105 of these in the Heights. Lots on Alma Road range from 8,843 sq’ to 14,288 sq’. The project lots are as small as 3,557 sq’ which is not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood. How many cars will there be and how will traffic be affected? The driveways are large enough for 4 cars and there will be no on-street parking. There is no recreational area although each unit will have a fenced in backyard. The developer noted that Falmouth’s Local Comprehensive Plan “allows” for “increased density” in a “pedestrian friendly village”.

4. Legal & Financial
: Since all units will be hooked up to the new sewer with 6 requiring grinder pumps, a neighbor questioned the legality of subdividing the existing 7 lots into 28 new lots, citing the Town Flow Neutral Bylaw approved by Town Meeting as part of the Little Pond Sewer Service Area project. Does this need input from Town attorney or an independent legal expert?

“§ 180-59 Transferability in sewer service areas. The number of bedrooms or flow on any particular parcel of land cannot be sold, exchanged, transferred, or otherwise used to benefit the number of bedrooms or flow on another parcel or another’s right to a sewer connection.”

5. Homeowners’ Association: A Homeowners’ Association is proposed to take responsibility for the road, possibly the fences, common drainage systems, etc., Specifics of when the homeowners will take over, a final list of responsibilities, and cost implications for affordable owners was not discussed.

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