WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2017/2018

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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[ forum ] P E T E B U H L E R writer in the summer of 2017, a quiet neighborhood in the heart of the Sprague School District became the unlikely battleground for Wellesley's 40B crisis. Residents of the double cul-de-sac formed by Stearns and Francis roads had enjoyed the ulti- mate quiet lifestyle and protection of single-family zoning for over a hundred years. Its nurturing streets celebrated every spring with the sounds of training wheels, basketballs, and spontaneous, happy shrieks from children darting between yards. Septembers brought early migrations of backpacked kids down Stearns to the Sprague School path while the older ones headed north on Francis toward Wellesley Middle School. But the laws of opportunism, affordable mandates, and politics conspired to end its century of serenity. Two properties, separated by just 70 yards, suddenly fell into the hands of a developer who saw an opportunity to exponentially increase his profit margin by initiating hostile 40B projects on both. If backed by the state, the proposed buildings — one four stories and one five — would almost quadruple the size of the neighborhood with 56 new residences on just two parcels. Sadly, the developer's move proved to be the beginning of a trend. By the end of the summer, the town was managing an unprecedented total of eight hostile 40B projects. What's Chapter 40B? If you're wondering how this could happen in Wellesley, here are the 40B basics. Massachusetts requires all cities and towns to have one of the following: n ten percent of its available housing stock qualify as "affordable" n an approved Housing Production Plan, with a 0.5 percent increase each year (until it reaches 10 percent) If a town has one or both, it is awarded "safe harbor" from state-enforced 40B projects. Since Wellesley has neither, developers can apply for a 40B permit on any single-family lot. A 40B permit can allow developers to over- ride zoning laws and build large-scale projects that break the local height, density, and set- back restrictions — as long as 20 percent of the units qualify as affordable. Without safe harbor, the state can enforce the proposal regardless of the town's stance. Even on single- family lots in residential neighborhoods. Most often, when municipalities don't align with the state on affordable housing require- ments, the battle plays out on the streets with residents pitted against developers. In Wellesley, it has seldom happened in small family-fo- cused pocket neighborhoods surrounding el- ementary schools. But all things considered, the sudden shift in developer tactics should not have been a surprise. We are far from the housing economy of Behind the Surge of Wellesley's 40Bs 50 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 7 / 2 0 1 8

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