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Norwell OK’s housing development

The Simon Hill affordable-housing project in Norwell has received a green light from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, but some people are still not happy about it.

While the long-awaited decision allows for 126 rental apartment units as proposed — 25 percent of which must be designated for affordable housing under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable-housing law — there are many other restrictions that developer Jack Sullivan of Simon Hill LLC had fought against but were included in the final document.

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Zoning board chairwoman Lois Barbour, who called the lengthy permitting process “daunting,” said she would not be surprised if Sullivan appeals the decision to the state Housing Appeals Committee. Sullivan did not return phone calls to his Norwell office.

Marie Molla, 72, a retiree who lives near the targeted development site off Prospect Street, said neighbors are “very, very unhappy with what the ZBA had to do.”

“But when you talk about affordable housing, under Massachusetts law, communities don’t have a lot of say,” she said. “The ZBA asked the developer to reduce the number of units, but he said it wasn’t financially feasible and he wouldn’t. He doesn’t have to.”

Molla said she is unsure whether neighbors will appeal the ZBA’s decision in the state Superior Court.

Sullivan wanted to put up four buildings on the site, but the ZBA allowed three – and restricted them to a 17.5-acre section on the lower portion of the nearly 30-acre site. Also, Sullivan requested that the buildings be allowed to be up to 44 feet tall, but the ZBA restricted the height to 36 feet.

“The board and abutters raised concerns throughout the course of the public hearing about the height and density of the development, but the concerns went largely unaddressed,” Barbour said. “That is, in part, why the board imposed a height restriction of 36 feet.”

Other conditions imposed include building a fire lane to connect two parking lots to help improve traffic circulation, and planting “extensive, dense landscaping” to create a buffer between the development and neighbors.

According to Barbour, the board is also requiring the developer to pay for a feasibility study for sidewalks to address off-site pedestrian safety concerns between the development and Norwell High School, as well as other traffic issues.

“We did the best we felt we could under tight restrictions,” Barbour said.

Juliet Pennington can be reached at writeonjuliet@
comcast.net
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