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Brookline officials want moratorium on new affordable housing developments

Chestnut Hill Realty proposes to build a 21-story apartment building in Brookline's Coolidge Corner neighborhood.Chestnut Hill Realty

BROOKLINE — One week after a developer pitched a 21-story apartment building for Coolidge Corner, selectmen have asked state officials to back a temporary moratorium on the review of future projects proposed under the state’s affordable housing law.

Brookline has 10 separate projects seeking waivers from local zoning that would add hundreds of new units under Chapter 40B.

The latest is a proposal from developer Chestnut Hill Realty that would bring 320 apartments in a complex on Waldo Street. Under the plan, 64 apartments would meet affordability rules and the rest would be market rate.

On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen voted to ask state agencies for a six-month moratorium on evaluating new proposals and give local officials more time for review.

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Neil Wishinsky, chairman of the selectmen, said the affordable housing law permits developments that are higher, bigger, and closer to their neighbors than local zoning would normally allow.

“I’m not worried about affordable units changing neighborhoods,” Wishinsky said in an interview. “I’m worried about the density.”

A spokeswoman for Chestnut Hill Realty, Margaret Murphy, said that affordable apartments are much needed in Brookline.

“People can move into Brookline that way,” Murphy said. “Otherwise, it’s almost impossible.”

Since 2010, the median price of a single-family home in town has skyrocketed about 40 percent, to more than $1.6 million.

The proposed Coolidge Residences at Brookline would offer 320 apartments, including 181 one-bedroom, 94 two-bedroom, and 32 three-bedroom units, according to a Nov. 29 application to MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency. The 64 affordable units would mostly have one or two bedrooms.

The project, located at 8-10 Waldo St., would also include a three-level parking garage with more than 330 spaces, along with 21,000 square feet of landscaped open space behind the building.

Wishinsky said a town committee would be formed to work with Chestnut Hill Realty on the Coolidge Corner project, as well as with the developer of a separate housing project anticipated for property now occupied by the Holiday Inn at 1200 Beacon St.

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In August, the Beacon Street property was sold by Brookline Hospitality LLC for $74 million to 90210 Beacon Owners LLC, which is controlled by Diego Rico, part of the management team of private equity firm Westbrook Partners, according to property and state corporation filings.

Rico did not respond to a message left with Westbrook’s office in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

In the case of the Coolidge Corner project, both sides said they would be open to continued discussion.

“We’ll certainly be talking with the town and working with them to make a signature project for that location,” said Murphy.

Wishinsky said the town would be more in favor of a smaller, mixed-use project with a hotel. He hopes to have proposals worked out with both developers for Town Meeting approval in November 2017.

However, town officials said number of proposed projects taxes the town’s ability to review them.

According to Wishinsky, there are six Chapter 40B proposals with a combined 497 units under review by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Four additional projects under Chapter 40B have been proposed with another 473 units, including the Coolidge Corner building.

Alison Steinfeld, Brookline’s planning director, told selectmen Tuesday that the town often holds hearings on proposals three nights a week, which puts a strain on staff and the volunteer members of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

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Selectwoman Nancy Daly said the increasing number of developments is contributing to overcrowding in the town’s schools. Brookline is moving ahead with efforts to expand the high school and build a new K-8 school to deal with student growth.

“I really feel that 40B has turned into a disaster for this town,” said Daly.

State Representative Frank I. Smizik said he supports selectmen’s efforts to to have more time to review already-proposed projects.

But the state’s affordable housing law helps make communities more accessible to those with lower incomes or who are recent immigrants, especially as housing costs rise, Smizik, a former housing lawyer, said in an interview.

“I just think we have to not give up on affordable housing,” Smizik told selectmen Tuesday.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.