Thursday, January 11, 2007

40B Red Tape In Massachusetts

The Independent reports from Massachusetts. "The Charles Ridge condominium complex is going on the auction block on Jan. 24. The 17.5-acre site off Beaverbrook Road is in the hands of T.D. Banknorth, holder of the mortgage on the property. The development was granted a comprehensive permit in September 2005, according to Board of Appeals Chairman Sherrill Gould, but racked up permitting problems and delays that may have caused the financial setback."

"Minutes from the Appeals Board from last August reveal substantial problems. Plans for the multi-unit buildings deviated materially from what was approved, and developers changed hands without seeking a new comprehensive permit."

"Under the state’s 40B law, a developer can build housing that may not meet local zoning standards so long as some of the units are offered at 'affordable' prices. Another feature of the law is that the plan that is granted a comprehensive permit must not be altered in any meaningful way without re-approval."

"But Gould said the management team changed at Charles Ridge, and changes were made to the units that caused the board to rethink its decision. She said the new team moved walls and amended the floor plans in a manner that was 'inconsistent' with what was approved."

"'The new management team was not as familiar with the 40B process, and changes were made to plans that were inconsistent with the comprehensive permit,' said Gould."

"For instance, she said the firewall between units was moved 'without permission of the board,' which put safety at risk. Other issues the ZBA found include a septic system that was 'marginal at best,' and walls that had obstructed Fire Chief Steven Carter from performing an inspection."

"Building Inspector Roland Bernier said Charles Ridge includes 43 condominium units in 10 buildings. In order to maintain its 40B status, 25 percent, or 11 of the 43 units must be for low-income residents. Bernier said seven units have been approved, or 'released for occupancy.'"

"'One building is complete, and a second one is very close to receiving its certificate of occupancy,' said Bernier. 'The rest are in various stages, but it will stay a 40B development even if it changes hands.' He said two buildings were set aside for over-55 residents."

"Bernier said if there is a new owner, that entity must be approved by the Board of Appeals and state."

"Gould said an independent engineer was hired to insure the units’ safety, but the added costs and delay most likely affected the project’s marketability. Stepping away from her role as appeals board member, Gould said as a lawyer, foreclosure means that the owner of the mortgage defaulted on payments to the bank that lent the money, and the bank has taken back the project for which the mortgage was given."

"She said in that case, the lender, or bank, will 'make an effort' to recoup as much of the cost as it can."


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