Frequently Asked Questions - Coolidge Corner Study Committee
What is the proposed contribution to the Housing Trust Fund for the mixed-use hotel and 13-story 143-unit residential building?
A standard provision of the Town’s Inclusionary Zoning Bylaw would require the proposed building to include 21 affordable units (143 units x 15%). One means available to the Town to reduce the height and/or massing of the proposed building is to negotiate a cash payment to the Town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund in lieu of some or all of the 21 required onsite units. Any such cash payment to the Housing Trust must have “a value comparable to the difference between the value of the affordable units required . . . if provided on-site, and the fair market value of such units free of the [affordable rent] conditions” and must “provide a greater affordable housing benefit to the Town than would have been provided on site”.
While removal of all 21 affordable onsite units could reduce the proposed building height by two stories, the Housing Advisory Board (HAB) is recommending the retention of 11 onsite affordable units, with a developer payment to the Housing Trust equivalent to the value of the remaining 10 affordable units—which will enable the building height to be reduced by one story.
The HAB, with expert technical support, has determined that a payment to the Housing Trust in the amount of $3.275 million would fulfill this Bylaw provision; the developer has concurred. The HAB has successfully deployed Trust Funds to non-profit affordable housing sponsors which have leveraged these funds with other State and Federal subsidies such that the cost to the Trust Fund of creating affordable housing in Brookline has been considerably less than $100,000 per unit. There is every indication, therefore, that the reduction of 10 onsite affordable units at Waldo-Durgin in exchange for a $3.275 million Trust Fund payment will, over time, enable the creation of far more than 10 new affordable units.
How many units does the Town currently have listed on the state's Subsidized Housing Inventory, and how might decisions about the Waldo-Durgin site affect that inventory or the future permitting process of other 40B Comprehensive Permits?
Please review this memo about the Town's current 40B status related to the proposed Waldo-Durgin zoning, dated April 22, 2019.
What neighborhood involvement has occurred to date?
A kick-off meeting in January 2017 was attended by over 100 residents where developers of both the Holiday Inn site (1200 Beacon Street) and the Waldo-Durgin site (10 Waldo Street, 12-18 Pleasant Street, 0 John Street) presented their preliminary proposals. The majority of that meeting was dedicated to public comment and question on the proposals. Both developers had an additional neighborhood meeting in June 2017. The Coolidge Corner Study Committee also held a neighborhood meeting for the Waldo-Durgin site on November 5, 2018. The Committee submitted a zoning Warrant Article to Spring 2019 Town Meeting and the Select Board submitted two other Warrant Articles related to a Memorandum of Agreement and Tax Certainty. As part of the Town Meeting process, public hearings were held by every Town body that votes on a recommendation to Town Meeting, including, but not limited to, Select Board, Planning Board and Advisory Committee.
Are either of these projects consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and other previous planning efforts?
The Town’s Comprehensive Plan recommends creating “District Plans” to help guide and facilitate redevelopments and land use decisions. The Town has created several “Special Zoning Districts” to facilitate the redevelopment of parcels, including Brookline Place, 111 Boylston Street, Cleveland Circle and most recently 25 Washington Street (former Gulf Station).
What will happen if the Waldo/Durgin redevelopment proposal fails to gain support from the neighborhood and the Committee?
Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR), the owner/developer of the Waldo/Durgin site, filed a Comprehensive Permit for a 299-unit apartment development (called "The Coolidge") under M.G.L Chapter 40B. The first Zoning Board of Appeals hearing for this project was held on April 18, 2018. At that first 40B hearing, the developer agreed to delay further review of their 40B proposal while they engage with the Study Committee on an alternative mixed-use hotel and apartment proposal. The permitting process of the 40B proposal will continue if and when CHR believes that they are unable to gain sufficient support for an alternative proposal. At this time, CHR has agreed to extend the 40B review period through the Spring Town Meeting decision.
The Town is in a temporary one year "Safe Harbor" as of October 29, 2018. However, the 40B application for The Coolidge at Waldo/Durgin is not, and will not, be affected by any temporary or permanent "Safe Harbor" status. The timeframe for the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to notify the applicant of the Town's "Safe Harbor" status is within 15 days of the commencement of the public hearing. Because the public hearing commenced for The Coolidge when the Town was not in a "safe harbor", the ZBA could not have made this assertion.
Why does the Town have a Study Committee for these projects and not others?
The Town has developed a Study Committee model to engage with developers and property owners on specific redevelopment proposals. Study Committees are often formed when the Board of Selectmen believe there is a potentially better outcome for the neighborhood and the Town than would be achieved through an as of right development process. Study Committees are appointed by the Board of Selectmen and are typically comprised of Town Meeting Members as representatives of the impacted precincts and residents with backgrounds and expertise in architecture, planning, real estate, law, historic preservation and transportation. The Study Committee typically meets over the course of several months to engage with developers, property owners and the neighborhood on potential zoning changes that might enable a specific project to move forward.
Why isn’t the Study Committee looking at a larger study area?
The last attempt (PDF) to study a larger area of Coolidge Corner concluded that the residential population should not be increased. The results and recommendations of that study were not adopted by the Planning Board and no further progress was made to facilitate projects. The Study Committee now is reacting to specific redevelopment proposals on specific sites. Additionally, the Town has had success facilitating redevelopment on a site by site basis because both the neighborhood and Town Meeting Members want to have a sense of the project they are supporting and/or voting on versus creating zoning for a series of development sites that are unknown.
Why is the Town paying for a real estate consultant and how much is being spent?
The Town has hired Pamela McKinney, a real estate consultant to “test” several redevelopment scenarios and to provide data, information and analysis on the financial and market feasibility of both projects being reviewed by the Study Committee. Key to this analysis is the understanding of the competing land value of keeping the property “as-is” versus pursuing a redevelopment either through new zoning or via a 40B process. Early on, Committee members wanted understand how construction costs might drive a specific use and a particular minimum height and program for a “financially feasible project.” The Committee will use this information to support their questions and discussions with the developers regarding changes to their proposals. This is the third time the Town has hired Pam to provide a similar scope of services for a Study Committee. The Town has budgeted $12,000 for Pam’s services from a Select Board’s study account.
What is a Special Zoning District?
A Special Zoning District is similar to an “overlay zone” in that it allows specific uses within a defined geographic area where they may not already be allowed. It also typically allows for specific uses at a greater density, subject to very specific requirements including, but not limited to parking, design and public benefits. The specific requirements are often tailored to the neighborhood to mitigate impacts.
How are “Special Zoning Districts” created?
Special Zoning Districts are usually the result of a Selectmen-appointed Study Committee process where the Committee was convened to create zoning for a specific area and/or project. If a project is supported by the Study Committee and the neighborhood, a Warrant Article to establish the Special District Zoning is submitted for Town Meeting consideration. All zoning changes require a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting to pass, which is a high bar to meet.