ZBA 1/18/18 Helmis Circle 40B Project Update

On January 18, 2018, the Zoning Board of Appeals held the second hearing regarding the 40B proposal in Falmouth Heights (watch on FCTV). The hearing was continued until 6:30 PM on March 15, 2018.

Virginia Valiela, Vice Chairman of the Water Quality Management Committee, explained the flow neutral by-law (see Article VIII 180 51 & 55) that the town of Falmouth was required to adopt by the State in order to receive 30-year no interest loans from the Commonwealth.

The bylaw requires the Town to ensure that no additional wastewater is generated in the Little Pond Sewer Service area beyond that which existed prior to sewering. Allowing the proposed 28 houses for this project, instead of the 7 in existence at the time of the submission of the sewer service area design, would not be permitted under this bylaw and agreement with the State. The State wishes to preserve capacity funded under the wastewater project for use in serving other estuaries that will also require sewer service.

Several residents spoke in opposition to the project due to the proposed density and site coverage by impervious surfaces.

The developer has submitted recent plans (dated 1/5/2018, sheet 7 of 11) that show increasing site elevations by 1 ½ to 2 feet from existing conditions. They also show contouring the site to pitch towards abutters, town roads, and wetlands directing storm water runoff from the site. This is not permitted under town bylaws 240-112 B2 and others.

Read the Enterprise article “Falmouth Housing Project Draws Questions About Density, Sewers” published on January 19, 2018 and reproduced in full here:

‘The Little Pond Village at Falmouth Heights 40B project met opposition from abutters at a zoning board public hearing Thursday night, January 18.

The proposed project, from Helmis Circle LLC, places 28 houses on 4.9 acres of land off Alma Road and Worcester Court. Seven of these houses, or 25 percent of the development, would be sold as affordable units.

“The two primary types of homes are Capes and saltboxes,” said designer Randal Lilly.
These houses will be approximately 1,700 square feet each, containing three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. There are also three ranch-style houses proposed for the site, each containing three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The proposed plans also allow them to build sunrooms on 24 of the lots, as well as either a storage shed or garage on 10 of the lots. These are optional additions, at the discretion of the homeowner, Mr. Lilly said. Zoning board member Kimberly A. Bielan confirmed that none of the lots with garages were designated affordable.

Member Terrence J. Hurrie noted that all the lots designated affordable fell under the average lot size of 5,300 square feet.

“All seven lots were under 4,300 square feet, two were under 4,000 square feet,” he said, asking if they were the smallest lots on the plan.

Mr. Lilly said the affordable units were spread out across the site, in order to avoid having a row of affordable houses.

“Some of them are smaller lots, but they’re not all the smallest lots. They’re a mixture,” he said.

Several abutters spoke out against the project. A repeated concern was its density.
“The density of this project will ruin this neighborhood. You are completely destroying the work people have done,” Joseph Netto said.

Mr. Netto asked the developers to meet the neighborhood halfway and reduce the density of their 28-lot plan.

“We don’t want to be against affordable housing, we want it to fit in with the neighborhood we invested our houses in,” he said.

Virginia Valiela, vice chairman of the water quality management committee, suggested the project is too dense for a different reason: it exceeds the capacity allowed by the state-mandated Flow Neutral Bylaw for Sewer Service Areas passed at the November 13, 2013, Falmouth Town Meeting.

The goal of the bylaw was to ensure the amount of wastewater generated in the Little Pond sewer service area was the same before and after the installation of the sewer system, ensuring the amount of wastewater generated does not exceed the capacity of the town’s wastewater treatment plant. As there were seven lots at this proposed development, the flow neutral bylaw projected a maximum of 28 bedrooms at this site.

“What you have before you tonight is three times that amount,” Ms. Valiela said. “There are 84 bedrooms here, rather than 28.”

Howard B. Grosser, president of the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Neighborhood Association, also brought up a sewer-related concern.

“The development, as currently designed, would not be possible without our sewer system,” Mr. Grosser said.

The seven lots on this site are subject to sewer betterment fees, with each property owner paying a betterment fee of approximately $13,000. However, the seven sewer betterment fees assessed to the seven lots associated with this 40B project will now be split across 28 sites, averaging approximately $3,000 per homeowner.

“It is undeniably legal, but that doesn’t make it right or fair,” Mr. Grosser said. “And I suggest that this fractional betterment associated with the 28 lots makes these 28 properties simply out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.”

He suggested the developers could show their commitment to the neighborhood by paying an additional 21 sewer betterment assessments, approximately $271,000.

However, one speaker spoke in favor of the project. After noting she was not speaking on behalf of the planning board, Patricia H. Kerfoot argued the project meets the needs of the town outlined in the 2014 RKG housing demand study and needs analysis, the 2016 local comprehensive plan and the Cape Cod Commission’s Davis Straits reset study.

“It is a tiny little pebble being thrown into the big pond of need in Falmouth,” she said. She argued this was an appropriate site for increased density because it is on a sewer line, in a walkable area and near public transportation.

The zoning board voted to continue the hearing until 6:30 PM on March 15 at Falmouth Town Hall. They are seeking further information on the flow neutral bylaw and density.

“The big concern, clearly, is density. I would like you to consider if there is some way to reduce the density,” zoning board chairman Kenneth H. Foreman said.’