Walpole residents speak out on Summer St. development
Residents vociferously objected to a proposed 300-unit Summer Street development during an informational meeting about the project last week.
The development - which would include 60 single-family homes and 240 rental units - is being pursued as an affordable-housing 40B project, potentially allowing builders to bypass many local zoning restrictions. David Hale, of Omni Properties, said during the Oct. 2 session that the work would take place on two properties - one of which the developer has already acquired, another it is in the process of buying - totaling about 57 acres.
The land, said Hale, is currently zoned for light manufacturing. A project that would conform to existing regulations would entail a sizable industrial facility, he said.
“You may not love our project, but you might not love this one either,” he said of a potential manufacturing development.
Many of the apartments, Hale said, would be in four-story buildings with elevators. The project, he claimed, was not particularly dense overall - about 36 percent of the parcel would remain as green space in the plans.
“The site has a lot of natural buffers,” he said. “The visual impact of what we’re building will be very, very little.”
The project, said Hale, would address a high need for housing in the area. With its accessibility and smaller units, the development can appeal to empty-nesters, families in transition and singles, he said. Hale added that the metro Boston region had added 245,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2017, but had only permitted an additional 71,600 housing units.
“Denser housing is greener housing,” he said, claiming smaller units typically entailed a reduced carbon footprint.
Residents, however, expressed numerous worries about the project, wondering whether the town would see any benefit from the development and asking about impacts on the town’s water, sewer and school systems. One resident said the fire department was already encountering water pressure problems, and that further taxing the system would contribute to more issues.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, stated his opposition to the project, drawing cheers from the crowd.
“I am not a fan of the 40B law; people ask me why - this is why,” he said. “This project is too big for our community of South Walpole.”
Dooley encouraged those present to band together, make their opinions known and work ti mitigate the effect on the neighborhood.
Some expressed concern about the former industrial use of the land, though Hale said actual operations had not taken place on this parcel itself.
Hale said Omni intends to work with the community, as it has done with other towns in which it has completed projects.
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