Senior housing project to head to Sunderland Selectboard

  • 120 North Main St., Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • 120 North Main St., Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/2/2017 11:49:40 PM

SUNDERLAND — A proposed affordable senior housing project near the town’s center is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Members of the 120 North Main St. Advisory Committee unanimously voted Thursday to recommend the Selectboard move forward with a joint proposal from Rural Development Inc. and Valley Community Development Corporation.

“It meets all the goals the town had for developing the property,” said Committee Chairwoman Lorin Starr. “All in all, we’re very pleased.”

Preliminary designs outline 34 affordable senior housing residences on 2.8 town-owned acres — up from 18, as presented at a town meeting last September — four in an existing house, the others in a horseshoe-shaped, two-wing, three-story building. Starr, who’s worked to bring affordable senior housing to town for years, said the committee was “not surprised that more units would make it work better.”

Units come in one- or two-bedroom options with all of them meeting affordable housing requirements as outlined in Mass. General Law Chapter 40B, which requires towns to have more than 10-percent affordable housing to avoid certain regulations. As of 2014, 0.5 percent of housing in town was listed as affordable.

Designs call for 54 parking spaces along one roadway into the development, and 55 trees for shade. The existing house near the road, as Architect Tom Chalmers from Austin Designs explained, will stay “basically as it is,” with the back possibly “redesigned for another two units.”

The main building features a patio and deck, a library and a common area on the first floor; outside, a community garden and seating.

“One of the really nice things about this proposal is the quality of common space,” said Laura Baker, real estate project manager, noting that most of the funding will come from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Town officials also intend to ask Sunderland to use some Community Preservation Act funds.

Baker said the development should have preference up to the state-limited 70-percent for seniors who live or work in town. Usually, she said, senior housing has an age restriction of 62 and older.

The vote came after advisory committee members asked and fielded questions of representatives from Rural Development Inc. and Valley Community Development Corporation. The joint proposal was the only one submitted during a Request for Proposals last month.

On Monday, the Selectboard will vote on the proposal, taking into account the advisory committee’s recommendation. If the vote passes, it’ll go to town meeting, where residents can vote whether or not to use Community Preservation Act funds.

Starr noted the town has approved two steps already: one in 2014 to purchase the Main Street property for $265,000, and a second last year to convey the land in order to search for a developer — a motion that passed a two-thirds vote.

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