100 Bridge St. affordable housing plan passed by Great Barrington Zoning Board of Appeals

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GREAT BARRINGTON —The Great Barrington Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a plan to build an affordable housing complex at the 100 Bridge St. site.

The board deliberated for over two hours on Monday night before taking the vote, which it had put off in late July to allow more time to review the plan.

"The town has not met the affordable housing requirements set by the state," said Chairman Ron Majdalany. "But if we reject this out of hand, we will be sued and we will lose."

The board approved the permit by a 4-1 vote, with board member Michael Wise the lone dissenter.

The Southern Berkshire Community Development Corp plans to develop the 8-acre parcel in phases. Eventually, the site will be host to affordable housing, upscale townhouses, and a large retail space abutting Bridge Street, according to the plans. A 1.8-acre strip along the river would be turned into parkland.

The developer is moving ahead first with the affordable housing segment of the project on the southerly 2.2 acres through a state Chapter 40B program, which streamlines the permit process in communities with less than 10 percent of the housing in the town for affordable housing.

The board found that concerns over traffic, open space access, and site remediation were legitimate. But it also found that the restrictions imposed in the permit conditions were sufficient to address those concerns. Great Barrington's failure to meet its responsibility to provide affordable housing for residents held more weight in the decision making process.

The restrictions were many, and detailed.

Site remediation concerns and housing requirements dominated the list of regulations. The board made clear that it would not welcome construction without a plan that meets state regulations for cleaning up the polluted land.

The remediation has been a topic of controversy for years at the site, the former home of New England Log Homes, which contaminated the soil with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls.

Town counsel David Doneski had drafted language requiring the site's complete remediation before occupancy, but the developers countered with another offer to remediate the acreage for the housing and the riverfront. The counter-offer language was in the final draft.

Wise motioned for the original language to be reinserted and to allow the full remediation before occupancy.

"If we don't do this, the buildings may sit for a long time," he said. ""How long later is it going to be?"

Majdalany, development executive director Tim Geller, and development lawyer Peter Puciloski all took the position that the full remediation was economically impossible. After a lengthy back and forth, Majdalany called for a vote, and Wise's motion failed 3-2 with board member Carolyn Ivory joining Wise in opposition.

Wise also suggested amending the plan to drop the density of affordable housing units on the site from 45 to 38.

"That's a non-starter for us," Geller said.

Majdalany agreed.

"I can't support that," he said.


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