Another proposed Sweetbriar-like affordable-housing development in Barrington brought out almost 100 people to the April meeting of the Housing Board of Trustees on Tuesday evening.
Anticipating a large turnout for the first public look at the proposed development at Sowams Nursery on Sowams Road, the meeting was moved from the tiny board room of the Barrington library to the Council Chamber in Town Hall. So there was plenty of room.
At least a few of the people in the Chamber went away without getting their questions about the project answered, however. The meeting was not advertised as a public hearing and there was concern about the board violating the Open Meeting Law if it answered questions.
“I got advice from several people on the board and the attorney for the developer,” said Steve Martin, chairman of the Housing Board, after the meeting. “Maybe we were too cautious. But we’ve never had a solicitor.”
Instead, Martin said, he promised to schedule a public hearing on the project at the next Housing Board meeting in May.
At least two other public hearings also will be held on the development – one by the Barrington Planning Board and one by the developer – East Bay Community Development Corporation, said attorney Stephanie Federico of DeSisto Law Associates, which represents EBCDC.
“There will be plenty of time to get questions answered,” Martin said.
Federico said the Housing Board meeting was set up only to offer a “preliminary look” at the development – “to start the conversation.”
Don Powers, the architect for EBCDC, said the sketch he designed for the project and which was made public several weeks ago was never intended to be the final plan.
“It was done to show the character of the project,” he said. “Public discussion is needed. We haven’t had input on it.”
The sketch was done primarily for a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) application … and "to convince the client that it is worth pursuing,” Powers said.
The next sketch will be done in cooperation with all the stakeholders in the project, he said, including Barrington and the Coastal Resources Management Council.
CRMC may not even allow access to the Barrington River waterfront, which includes wetlands, said Frank Spinella of EBCDC.
What is known at this time is that approximately 56 units are proposed for the 9-acre site – all of them 100 percent affordable housing with rents ranging from $500 to $900, according to Spinella.
None of the units are planned for senior citizens, Spinella said, answering a question from Martin.
“But we cannot build restrictive housing,” he said. “They will be open to any age. We certainly can accommodate any population.”
EBCDC also has not yet closed on the property, which it is buying for $1.2 million from the owners of the nursery land, Joseph and Maria Silveria, said Kathy Bazinet, executive director of EBCDC.
She described the development previously as “very much like the Sweetbriar development" off of Washington Road in Bay Spring. See previous Patch story.
The developer does not expect to break ground for at least a year, said Spinella, probably longer because of the lengthy approval process it will go through. Completion is not expected until 2015.
Martin thanked the audience for coming out even though they didn’t get their questions answered.
“We’ve been around for six years,” said Martin. “We’ve just been discovered.”