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Norwood now fielding four housing proposals

In perhaps a clear sign the housing market is on the upswing in parts of this region, developers have proposed at least four new multi-dwelling projects in Norwood, all under provisions of the state law that encourages affordable housing and smart growth.

Two former printing buildings may become housing in separate proposals under the Chapter 40R smart-growth law. Two other projects would take advantage of the Chapter 40B affordable-housing statute. The first two projects have received some support in the town, which they would require, while the latter two have run up against local opposition, which may not stop them.

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If all four projects came to fruition, they would add nearly 1,000 units of housing to Norwood, a town of about 28,300 people within 10.5 square miles.

The town’s planning director, Stephen Costello, said it is a busy time in his office, suggesting that the economy and housing market are picking up.

Davis Marcus Partners is seeking to build Forbes Hill, 300 units of multi-bedroom rental housing off Upland Road. The targeted site is next to the parcel eyed for Upland Woods, a proposed 296-unit development on property formerly owned by Polaroid, which is before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

As in the Upland Woods proposal, Davis Marcus Partners is looking to build Forbes Hill under Chapter 40B, the state housing statute that frees developers from some local restrictions if they provide affordable units in municipalities like Norwood that do not meet their minimum number of affordable dwellings as determined by the state.

Davis Marcus Partners did not return several calls seeking comment.

‘All the law has done has filled the pockets of greedy developers willing to build densely populated developments.’

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In the Upland Woods project, the Campanelli company is looking to build 11 three-story buildings of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments on 23.65 acres off Upland Road, on land designated for economic development. That proposal goes before the Zoning Board of Appeals again on Aug. 20.

Some residents and officials have argued that the hundreds of multi-bedroom units proposed under the state law would overwhelm Norwood’s schools and bankrupt the town.

“The law has been, in my opinion, ineffective,” said William Plasko, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “All the law has done has filled the pockets of greedy developers willing to build densely populated developments that will work for themselves with total disregard for the concerns of the local community.’’

Plasko said the Chapter 40B law was meant to make communities more affordable, but instead it is hurting communities like Norwood that already have a large number of affordable properties and rental units, and it is leaving some wealthier suburbs relatively unscathed.

Meanwhile, Norwood officials are considering two other plans for housing proposed under Chapter 40R, which promotes production of dwellings near areas of concentrated development and facilities, such as transportation. These “smart growth” projects must be approved by town officials and Town Meeting, and may be eligible for payments from the state’s Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund.

The two plans propose 70 apartments in a building owned by the Regal Press printing company and approximately 300 units at the former Plimpton Press factory, both near the center of town.

William Duffey Jr., president of Regal Press, said the company’s building at 129 Guild St. “would be a poster child of smart-growth zoning.”

Duffey said that unlike the more controversial 40B projects, the town has a say over smart-growth plans. He said the studio apartments being planned would not overburden local schools, being targeted toward college students, single people, and seniors who want to be close to downtown and the train station nearby. Downtown businesses would benefit from residents and their spending money, he said.

And while Chapter 40R requires that 20 percent of the units have to be priced affordably, Duffey said his company is offering to make 25 percent of its apartments affordable.

Duffey said he has spoken to town officials and has gotten positive feedback. The company’s multi-story brick building has been on the market for commercial use, but there has been little interest, he said.

The Plimpton Press project is being proposed by Criterion Development Partners of Waltham on the former printing company’s 9 acres off Lenox Street. The development company could not be reached for comment.

Plasko said he sees more positives to the smart-growth proposals, but added that Town Meeting voters may not be open to the idea of any more apartments for Norwood at that time.

“I don’t think they are going to welcome it with open arms,’’ he said.

Plasko said the town will have reached its 10 percent affordable-housing minimum goal set by the state if the two Chapter 40B projects off Upland Road are approved. And if residents had been upset by increased traffic and the prospect of having to redistrict or build schools because of 600 homes being built close to one school, Oldham Elementary, they may not be in the mood to approve any other housing projects, he said.

Jean Lang can be reached at jeanmcmillanlang@gmail.com
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