MassHousing weighs fate of Mugar 40B application

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The state agency that will decide whether the Mugar project in East Arlington receives approval to follow 40B path is reviewing the application, and a decision is expect "soon."

Thomas J. Farmer, a spokesman for MassHousing, wrote Wednesday, Dec. 2, that "The review of the application and related materials is complete. The decision-making process is in the last stages at the executive level.

"The final decision on whether to grant project eligibility will be made soon."

If a letter saying the representative of Oaktree Development of North Cambridge is eligible for 40B is issued, that would give the developer standing in which to apply for a comprehensive permit from the Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals.

'No prescribed time frame' 

Asked whether a decision might occur before Christmas, Farmer responded: "Hopefully, but it is impossible to say precisely. As a large financial institution, there are many decisions made every day by executives and many documents to be reviewed and signed. We can certainly understand the desire to know for sure, but at this stage of the process there is no prescribed time frame."

Application for comprehensive permit is between the developer and the ZBA, Farmer wrote, and he referred YourArlington to the Town of Arlington for information about that process works. Special Counsel Jon Witten has been working with the town since May on the matter.

SEB LLC, a representative of Oaktree, applied for 40B eligibility in June. Town and development officials have been wrangling since August about the submitted documents.

The proposed 219 units of housing near Route 2 have drawn persistant opposition from nearly all town officials as well as Arlington's legislative delegation.

Chapter 40B is a 1969 state law aimed to increase affordable housing, but its more recent history shows it is used to allow projects to avoid local zoning rules.

40B enables local zoning boards to approve affordable housing under flexible rules if at least 20 to 25 percent of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. 

The program is controversial, because the developer -- a public agency, nonprofit organization or limited-dividend company -- has the right to appeal an adverse local decision to the state in communities with little affordable housing (less than 10 percent of its year-round housing or 1.5 percent of its land area). 

Communities that have not yet met one of these thresholds can also receive one- or two-year exemptions from state appeals by adopting a housing production plan and meeting short-term production goals.

As of July 2011, 47 cities and towns are appealproof -- 39 because they have met the 10-percent goal, at least three more because they have met the land area standard, and another five with two-year exemptions. Communities above the 10-percent or 1.5-percent threshold can still accept 40B development proposals at their choice.

For a history of the Mugar project, see the links below.

Nov. 24, 2015: Mugar developer submits document, and town awaits 40B decision

Oct. 7, 2015: Selectmen respond to MassHousing; agency expected decision soon
Sept. 25, 2015: Mugar developer submits 8 project documents after August deadline
Aug. 19, 2015: Selectmen's comments on Mugar project sent to MassHousing
Aug. 13, 2015: Details few as Mugar site developer looks ahead
July 15, 2015: Hearing on Mugar site appliocation tough to schedule 
June 29, 2105: July 22 meeting set as developer moves toward 40B Mugar application
June 9: Step toward 40B filed for Mugar site; town seeks more time to respond
May 26, 2015: Speakers at Hardy send a clear message about Mugar site: NO
Cambridge Day, April 26: 3-year Cambridge master-plan process to start with Alewife
April 5, 2015: Coalition responds point by point to Mugar developer's statements
Opinion: Arlington's Belskis on 40B
March 31, 2015: Coalition seeks to preserve Mugar site from development         
Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands: WordPress | Facebook
March 8, 2015: Belmont Uplands permit issued; opponents vow to continue

This report was published Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.

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