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Construct Inc.'s affordable housing plan approved in New Marlborough

Cassilis Farm

Real estate listing photos of Cassilis Farm in New Marlborough in the town's feasibility study. Affordable housing nonprofit Construct Inc. bought the estate at auction and plans to convert the main mansion into 11 rental apartments.

NEW MARLBOROUGH — Plans to transform a Gilded Age mansion into this town’s first 11 affordable housing units won backing from the Select Board on Wednesday.

In a series of unanimous votes, the Select Board affirmed the site plan met requirements of the town’s zoning bylaw and set 10 conditions on the special permit needed. The plan by Construct Inc. of Great Barrington will create the development at the 20-acre property, known as the Cassilis Farm off Hartsville-New Marlborough Road.

On Jan. 11, the Planning Board unanimously recommended that the Select Board approve the special permit for the revised plan.

Construct planned to apply for state funds for the estimated $6 million project and hopes to have one- two- and three-bedroom units move-in ready by winter of 2025.

Both the town and the community helped Construct buy the estate in August, and the façade of the 23-room mansion will remain as it is.

The property was placed on the market for $1.89 million after The John Dewey Academy purchased it in 2020 from the Carpenter Family Trust then went into foreclosure. The academy had planned to relocate the school there after its Main Street headquarters in Great Barrington was sold.

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Prior to setting conditions, the Select Board agreed that the plan conformed to the town’s zoning bylaw, specifically that it is in compliance with the town’s general bylaw, that it is “essential or desirable to the public convenience or welfare at the proposed location,” that it “will not be detrimental to adjacent uses or to the established or planned future of the neighborhood,” that it “will not create undue traffic congestion or unduly impair pedestrian safety,” and that it will not overload the water supply or sewerage facility.

The town’s Board of Health regulates the septic requirements; the state Department of Environmental Protection regulates the water supply, and both will be involved in permitting the project, Brent White, principal at White Engineering, told the Select Board.

Conditions placed by the Select Board mostly regarded screening using 4-foot-tall native plants, trees or fences so that car headlights and other lighting on the property won’t shine into neighbors’ homes. The Select Board also required one driveway to be widened, and the addition of an apron, as well as a culvert, unless the highway superintendent determines that the culvert is not necessary. In addition, the required signs to restrict use of a second driveway.

The Select Board briefly discussed asking the developer to include the required screening elements to a plan prior to the vote, but opted to move the project forward after its second hearing on the development.

In response to concerns expressed by neighbors about the potential for future development, Town Counsel Jeremia Pollard confirmed the developer would have to return to the town for any change to the special permit, which will be part of the deed to the property.

Jane Kaufman is Community Voices Editor at The Berkshire Eagle. She can be reached at jkaufman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6125.

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