State Housing Appeals Committee Approves Surfside Crossing Development

Jason Graziadei •

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The 156 condominium units slated for the controversial Surfside Crossing development off South Shore Road has been approved by the state in a decision issued Friday by the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC).

The decision by the state committee was made over the objections of the Nantucket Land Council, along with a group of neighbors and community members known as Nantucket Tipping Point. The HAC's ruling vacates the Nantucket Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) decision to permit a scaled-down development of 60 units, and requires it to issue an amended comprehensive permit allowing for the 156 condominium units of the development to move ahead.

The 47-page decision was authored by Werner Lohe, the presiding officer of the HAC. Lohe wrote that “after concluding that the development is uneconomic at the much-reduced size approved by the Board (ZBA), 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.”

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.

"In the past five years, the need for new housing, particularly affordable home ownership opportunities on Nantucket, has only grown," Feeley said in a written statement shared with the Current on Monday. "The recent HAC decision supporting our project is an exciting one, not only for our team, but for our entire community. We are pleased to turn our focus to getting this project underway. Once complete, Surfside Crossing will create the type of affordable and accessible homeownership opportunities that do not otherwise exist on the island. We remain open to collaborating with other agencies and non-profits focused on housing affordability; this includes discussing options to extend the positive benefits of this project further by restricting additional market rate units to year-round housing stock."

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The group of abutting property owners and community members who organized under the banner of Nantucket Tipping Point said it was “frustrated yet not surprised ” by the news, and anticipates appealing the decision to the Nantucket Superior Court.

"We are frustrated yet not surprised given HAC’s history of rubber-stamping high density unfriendly 40b projects such as Surfside Crossing," said Tipping Point president Will Willauer. "We are further disappointed in the developer’s unwillingness to listen to the local concerns regarding the community’s health, safety, welfare, environmental concerns and historic preservation that this high-density development looks to endanger. Nantucket Tipping Point is committed to continue to oppose this inappropriate high-density development to help safeguard the community for generations to come."

The Nantucket Land Council has joined Nantucket Tipping Point in opposing the development over the past few years, and its executive director, Emily Molden, said Monday that she was disappointed with the HAC's ruling and decried what she described as a lack of local input on what the HAC had decided to allow.

"Our local Zoning Board of appeals never had an opportunity to review or weigh in on the redesigned Surfside Crossing development," Molden said. "We essentially have one agency and hearing officer in Boston deciding what is appropriate for this incredibly oversized development with zero local control or input. Nantucket’s local regulatory agencies, elected officials and community have no say in this permit...This development is not about providing affordable housing for the community. There is nothing to stop all remaining units outside of the state’s minimum required covenant units from becoming Short Term Rentals, and moving from a mixed housing development to all condos lends itself to that potential."

Nantucket Tipping Point called on the town to join in its appeal of the HAC ruling. Nantucket Planning and Land Use Development director Andrew Vorce said that decision ultimately rests with the Select Board.

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.

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.

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