Town, apartment developer narrowing down environmental concerns

Sep 25, 2019

Attorneys representing the town and a project developer looking to build a 288-unit affordable apartment complex on State Road are close to finalizing details on handling a site with a history of pollution problems. 

At the September 24 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Karis North, special counsel representing the town, updated the board on negotiations for environmental conditions. 

It is a set of preconstruction, construction, and post-construction requirements the project developers must follow to ensure the property is safe for workers and future residents. Most of the conditions focus on monitoring and testing for pollutants. 

At the last meeting on September 10, North said she was still negotiating with the project developers on roughly two-thirds of the items on the list. At the most recent meeting, she reported the town and developers had agreed to a majority of the items, and only several sticking points remained. 

“There shouldn’t be too many points of dispute, just how they are addressed as written conditions,” North said. 

First Dartmouth LLC, which also owns the Dartmouth Woods apartment complex, is seeking to build a 32-building apartment complex on several parcels of land near State and Reed Roads, including the old Joe’s Used Cycles property. 

The project is being proposed under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, which allows project developers to bypass certain town zoning requirements if the town’s housing stock deemed “affordable” is below ten percent.

The properties have a history of pollution problems. The properties were once used for a host of industrial uses, and as a dumping ground. In the 1970s, hundreds of drums of toxic waste were discovered to have been dumped there. Releases of toxic chemicals have been documented.

Cleanup of the properties has been ongoing since the 1980s.

The properties’ long history of pollution issues is a concern for Zoning Board of Appeals members. Member Michael Medeiros asked what would happen if contamination issues outside of the scope of the agreed upon conditions are found further into the construction project. 

“We could have a site where the buildings are knocked down, they start doing testing, and things stop,” Medeiros said. “I just see that as a potential issue that could come about in the future.” 

North said the company might need to come back before the board if conditions change. 

“What we’ve agreed to is more testing, and more assessment, and a reasonable plan to fully characterize what’s going to be done on the site in a way that is protective of the workers and eventually the residents of the site,” North said.  

North noted there are already assessments and testing being conducted before significant site work is being performed on the property. 

Joel Loitherstein, a licensed site professional working for the applicants, said about 26 monitoring wells and 40 test pits have been dug on the site so far, and monitoring wells will also be installed directly under each building. 

“I think we all agree there is a good amount of assessment that has already been done and will be done before construction commences,” Loitherstein said. 

The next public hearing on the proposed complex will be held on October 30. Topics which will be discussed include the environmental conditions, and sewer issues. The project developers were also granted an extension in the public hearing process through November.