Hanover’s Zoning Board of Appeals has turned down a proposal to build a 200-apartment affordable-housing development on land just northwest of the Hanover Mall, ruling the project does not fit with a vision for high-quality development in the Route 53 corridor.
Members of the five-member board voted unanimously to deny the application of Hanover Woods LLC and its principal, Jack Sullivan, for a modified comprehensive permit for Woodland Village, a group of six buildings, clubhouse, pool, and 420 parking spaces proposed for 80 acres off Woodland Drive.
Sullivan has sought approval for the project in several different forms since 2009. The zoning board had approved a comprehensive permit late last year for a version that called for 152 condominiums and town homes, but then the developer came back with a request to build rentals instead because of declining market demand.
That request did not receive a warm welcome.
Sullivan presented both projects under Chapter 40B, the state law that allows a developer to skip some zoning rules if affordable units are included in the plan, and less than 10 percent of the community’s housing stock is considered to be affordable.
In a statement released after its June 25 decision, the zoning board said Hanover’s affordable housing stock is currently at 9.1 percent and the town has made “significant” progress in developing such options in more appropriate locations.
The board also said that Sullivan had not complied “with basic threshold requirements for obtaining a comprehensive permit, including not being in possession of approval for subsidy financing for the proposed rental development.”
Sullivan’s attorney, Warren Baker of Baker, Braverman and Barbadoro PC in Braintree, said the case will be presented to the state’s Housing Appeals Committee based on the point that the town was bound to review the change in the proposal from condos to rentals only, not whether it wants the project to move forward. That ship has already sailed, he said.
“They have decided to use it as an opportunity to rewrite history” after four-plus years and up to 70 meetings over the project, said Baker. The developer has 20 days from June 29, the day the decision was filed with the Hanover town clerk, to appeal.
Town Manager Troy Clarkson said the “no” vote is based on much more than just the technicalities of the application process.
“The [Zoning] Board of Appeals is exercising and fostering economic development’’ in the area, he said — something that is directly in line with selectmen’s vision for the town.
Clarkson and zoning board members said the decision was based on the town’s Master Plan and Zoning Bylaw, both of which encourage high-quality commercial development along the Route 53 corridor and the Interchange Overlay District near exit 13 off Route 3. The overlay district, created by a Town Meeting vote in 2008, is expected to contain a hotel, restaurants, an office park, a convention center, retail stores, and/or a wastewater treatment facility.
Baker argues that the zoning under the overlay district remains residential, which fits in perfectly with his client’s project.
But neighbors have long objected to the concept of Woodland Village, which most recently called for two sets of three three-story buildings clustered near several neighborhoods. Abutters have packed public hearings held over the past three years to say that they moved to Hanover to get away from the city and that the proposed plan would make them feel as if they’d never left.
Meanwhile, the town’s conservation agent, Patrick Gallivan, said in 2010 that the project would violate a mandatory 25-foot buffer between a development and wetlands that surround the site, raising fears of flooding and ground water pollution.
Then, in May, School Superintendent Kristine Nash said she had grave concerns about the impact 200 rental units would have on the district’s school population, an effect that would play out in class size as well as programs and services.
On Monday, Clarkson said members of the zoning and select boards are rowing in the same direction “and we hope we can work with the [land] owners to jump on board and row in the same direction as well.”
The town has reached out to the Murphy family, which owns the land off Woodland Drive, in order to assist in responsible development, Clarkson said.
That responsibility is central to a list of goals Clarkson and selectmen recently developed as the focus of his first year in the job.
Revitalizing the Route 53 corridor is right at the top of the list, along with improving communication, improving the town’s business environment, achieving progress on a cleanup of the former National Fireworks site, strengthening a partnership with the mall, strengthening the town’s business and community identity, and maintaining curb appeal.
“This is not just closing a door on building rentals’’ like Woodland Village, Clarkson said, reiterating the hope of working cooperatively to do something more with the land. “Selectmen have made it very clear that economic vitality is of the utmost priority, and we are digging in.”