Elderly Housing Project Granted All of Its Variance Requests

A proposed elderly rental housing complex was granted variances last week that allow it to greatly exceed the number of units per building as well as the number of acres used.

Team Business Development Corp., which plans to build a 110 unit, 55-plus age-restricted rental complex in the Button Drive, Golen Drive and Reed Street area, was granted each variance it requested from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) at its Wednesday, July 16 meeting. The area is just off Nashua Road (Route 102).

The variances include:

• Building three connected buildings on 12.72 acres, where 15 acres are required.

• Having 36 and 42 units per buildings where 16 units is the maximum allowable.

• Increasing density to 8.6 units per acre where six units per acre is the maximum.

• Separating buildings by 26 feet, where 60 feet is required.

• Including a mix of one and two bedroom units, where only two-bedroom units are allowed.

• Having one parking space per bedroom where 1.2 parking spaces per bedroom are required.

In March, Atty. Patricia Panciocco brought a series of variance requests before the ZBA, but they were continued without any rulings until the April meeting. At the April meeting she requested a continuance until the May meeting.

In deliberations at the May meeting, board member David Paquette noted that the company owned about 13 acres of adjoining land. Chairman James Smith clarified that with that additional acreage, the company owns enough land to meet the 15-acre requirement.

At that point, Panciocco said she was getting new information and asked that the matter be tabled until June, when she presented a different set of variance requests. That meeting was continued to July 16.

At last week’s hearing, George Chadwick of Bedford Design noted that the requirements for a non-senior multifamily complex and a senior complex were different.

“When it comes to tract size, with a multifamily there is no minimum tract size; for the elderly it says you have to have 15 acres,” he said. “With a multifamily, there is a 30-foot building separation between structures but for elderly, it’s 60 feet. In a multifamily project there is a flexibility to have one bedroom units as well as two bedroom units, but with elderly, it’s two bedroom only.”

Panciocco said they had tried to comply with the ordinance but were out of land, with no more to be had.

Acting Chairman Neil Dunn said the board should vote on each variance individually and given the availability of sewer and water, increased density could be allowed.

Paquette said that based on the availability of water and sewer, the request would not be contrary to public interest.

Board member Annette Stoller said she sees a public need for the project and that demographically the public is aging.

The board voted unanimously to grant the variance request to build on 12.72 acres.

As for the variance request to have 32, 36 or 42 units per building, where 16 are allowed, Paquette said the Master Plan called for that type of dwelling.

“The elderly population could use more housing options and more communication about the services available to them,” Paquette said. “It seems that there is a need for this type of housing. That said, it is a pretty big stretch to go from 16 to 32 or 36 or 42 units per building.”

Dunn said that density per acre was averaged, so “I guess the density per acre isn’t quite as egregious.”

Board member Jim Tirabassi said density would be the same no matter how many buildings were there or what size they were.

Stoller asked if the proposal had been reviewed for fire safety. Dunn said that would be discussed at the Planning Board level. Building Inspector/ Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel said his office would be involved with the Planning Board during the site plan review process.

The board voted unanimously to grant the variance with the restrictions that the buildings not exceed 42 units in any one building and there would be no more than 110 units on the property.

To the variance request that would allow one bedroom units as well as two bedroom units where only two bedroom units are allowed, and the request that there be 26 feet between buildings where 60 feet is required, Paquette noted that the applicant said multifamily tracts would be allowed to have one and two bedrooms, along with a separation less than was required for elderly housing.

“It is a compelling argument,” Paquette said.

Paquette said that it would not be contrary to the public interest because it would not alter the character or cause a safety issue, “as long as the Planning Board and fire department are happy with it.”

Dunn said that the reduced spacing may meet the needs of elderly people.

The board voted unanimously to grant the requests of one and two bedroom units and the separation between buildings of 26 feet.

The last variance request was to allow one parking space per bedroom where 1.2 spaces are required.

The board voted unanimously to grant the variance.

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