Published August 22, 2019
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — The second Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) public hearing on the 20 Elm St. Ch. 40B comprehensive permit application for 200 apartments will be held tonight, Thursday, August 22 at 6:45 p.m.
The meeting location is the Performing Arts Center at NRHS (not Town Hall) where the board has allotted about 30 minutes to discuss and decide whether the town can invoke “safe harbor” under the “general land area minimum” (GLAM) exemption provision of 40B if 1.5% or more of the town’s land area is allotted to affordable housing.
Under the state law the decision must be made by Friday, August 23, which is the 15th day after the board had opened the public hearing. At question was whether land area occupied by group homes in town would push the town over the 1.5% threshold. Preliminary GLAM calculations “indicate that 0.79 percent of the town’s land is dedicated to affordable housing,” according to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto.
Gilleberto stated that this information “is preliminary because the town has a request pending with the state for confirmation of the land area associated with state group homes.”
According to attorney Dan Hill, who was hired by Defend Ipswich River Communities (DIRC) by opponents of this development, group home addresses are not made public by the state to protect the privacy of the residents. This makes it difficult for the town to ascertain the total land area occupied by group homes in the town.
Safe harbor status would mean a town would not be obligated to accept a comprehensive permit application. The town is just shy of the 10% number of affordable units at 9.6%, or 20 units. This project would add 25 affordable units, which is another way to assess whether safe harbor status is warranted.
After the 40B portion of the meeting has concluded the ZBA will recess and the members will drive across town to Town Hall, 235 North St., where they will reconvene in Room 14 in order to hold two previously scheduled public hearings on other matters not related to the 40B application of NY Ventures at 7:30 p.m.