Assisted living added to proposed Hathaway Road project

Apr 6, 2021

Neighbors are voicing discontent with a plan for a 149-unit elderly housing development at Hathaway Road after changes to the proposed project were announced at an April 5 Planning Board meeting.

The complex was first introduced as 55-plus housing at an Oct. 19 Planning Board meeting.

It would be built on a 113-acre parcel of land east of Slocum Road that extends from Hathaway Road near the Hope Evangelical Community Church up to I-195.

Residents had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the plans at the previous meeting due to traffic, noise and other concerns.

The original plans comprised 51 one-bedroom apartments and 98 two-bedroom apartments for rental, with a basement parking garage and an additional parking area along with a community building and a swimming pool facility. 

But on April 5, representative for the developer John Markey told the board and a few dozen members of the public that the housing complex will now include some assisted living units, requiring a special permit.

“It does not appear under the bylaw that a fully independent senior residential facility is allowed in the Single Residence A district,” noted Assistant Town Counsel Brian Cruise, explaining in part why the plans have changed.

Markey asked to extend the timeline for the project to work out details before coming back before the Planning Board for both the special permit and the site plan review.

Changes include framing the special permit as well as addressing “extensive” commentary from the Department of Public Works, Markey said.

He added that any neighbors or interested parties can get his or the project engineer’s contact information from Planning Director Christine O’Grady. 

“We are happy to meet in advance with any neighbors who want to review the revised plans and go over the changes that we’ve suggested,” he said. 

But members of the public — and even board members — seemed bewildered by the change.

“I was at all the meetings, I never heard it was going to be assisted living,” said Planning Board member Margaret Sweet.

“I’m just a bit confused,” said Tom Babington, a resident of Kennedy Street near the proposed complex, who noted that the change felt like a “bait and switch.”

“A week or two ago I reviewed the plans with [Planning Director] Christine O’Grady at the town hall,” he said. “And now, just a week or so later, we’re just changing direction completely?”

“With all due respect, how many more continuances are you going to do?” he asked. “It just seems like we’re getting dragged through the process.”

Markey noted that the developer was forced to make the changes to account for zoning bylaw requirements, and that they are currently working with town counsel to iron out the details.

Other neighbors also expressed frustration with the planning process.

“We’re just citizens who don’t have a sense of how the system works,” noted Geraldine Perry-Lopes to the board. “I assume that because you work in the system, you understand it. But cut us a little slack.”

The project will be back before the Planning Board for another public hearing on Aug. 1.