The 156 condominium units slated for the controversial Surfside Crossing development off south shore road has been given a green light by the presiding officer of the state Housing Appeals Committee, according to a proposed decision obtained by the Current.
The draft decision must still be approved by the full state committee, and both the Nantucket Land Council and a group of neighbors known as Nantucket Tipping Point have submitted formal objections to the committee. But the draft decision indicates Surfside Crossing is close to defeating its most significant legal challenge yet.
The 43-page proposed decision was authored by Werner Lohe, the presiding officer of the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC). In the document, Lohe asserts that “we have reviewed the local concerns raised concerning the developer’s proposal, and conclude that they all have been or will be resolved in a manner that protects the health, safety, and other interests of the occupants of the housing and of nearby residents of the town.” Lohe’s draft would vacate the Nantucket Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to permit a scaled down development of 60 units, and require it to issue an amended comprehensive permit allowing for the 156 condominium units of the development to move ahead.
Surfside Crossing, proposed by developers Jamie Feeley and Josh Posner, would include 156 condominium homes contained within 18-three story buildings (two stories above grade) on 13 acres of undeveloped pine forest off South Shore Road. Twenty-five percent of those units would be deed restricted for affordable housing, or a total of 39 units within the development.
“We are encouraged by the presiding officer’s draft and hopeful that the Housing Appeals Committee will adopt it,” Feely told the Current on Sunday. Surfside Crossing’s attorney, Paul Haverty, said there is no specific timeline for the committee to act on the draft decision, but he is hopeful it will happen within the “next couple of months.”
While the Nantucket Land Council has not yet responded publicly to the proposed decision, the abutting property owners who organized under the banner of Nantucket Tipping Point called it “disappointing news” and a “rubber stamp” of the development.
“Unfortunately, this draft decision further incentivizes vulturous profit seeking investors to over monetize Nantucket and in this case under the guise of providing some affordable housing as small part of the project,” the group stated. “While the island needs affordable housing, this law does not take into consideration protecting Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark Designation, the fragile natural environment and our health, safety and welfare in the overwhelmed infrastructure with dangerous overcrowding and snarled traffic as examples.”
In their formal objection submitted to the HAC, the attorneys representing the Nantucket Land Council and the Nantucket Tipping Point group of abutters challenged the conclusions of the draft decision.
“No part of the Proposed Decision addresses the inability to build this project with this configuration and layout on Nantucket,” attorneys Paul DeRensis and Dennis Murphy wrote. “It would be like siting an apartment building in the middle of historic Sturbridge Village or amid 13 teepees at Plimoth Plantation, destroying the very thing that the statute is intended to protect. Contrary to the implication of the Proposed Decision, as a matter of law nothing in Chapter 40B repealed the statutory protections for Nantucket’s historic uniqueness.”
Surfside Crossing would include 117 market rate units at two price points – $450,000 to $825,000. The remaining 39 condos would be priced at affordable rates – between $261,000 and $373,000 – for qualifying individuals making 80 percent or below the area median income.
The state Housing Appeals Committee has final say over Surfside Crossing, even though the local Zoning Board of Appeals previously approved a scaled-down version of the project that would allow 60 single family homes and condominiums.
The plans for Surfside Crossing were filed under a state statute known as Chapter 40B, which allows developers to bypass local zoning regulations and increase density if at least 20 to 25 percent of the new units have long-term affordability restrictions.
Last May, when the Housing Appeals Committee conducted a site visit on South Shore Road, roughly 100 island residents turned out to protest the development and send a message to the committee in Boston.