Zoning Board talks sewer, closes 'Dartmouth Woods II' hearing

Mar 1, 2021

Nearly $1 million will be needed for sewage work for the proposed 288-unit affordable apartment complex near the intersection of Reed Rd. and State Rd. — half of which will be funded by the town, according to town officials.

At a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Feb. 24, attorneys behind the Dartmouth Woods II project updated the board on the status of its comprehensive permit to build the complex.

The project, which has been the topic of ongoing discussions for more than two years, is being proposed under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, which allows  developers of large housing projects to bypass certain town zoning requirements if the town’s housing stock deemed “affordable” is below ten percent.

In early 2020, the town and the project developers were still negotiating the specifics about what sewer system upgrades would be required to support the scale of the project. Under Massachusetts law, infrastructure improvements for 40B projects are the responsibility of the community.

Karis North, special counsel representing the town, said at a Feb. 24 meeting that new engineering designs should “help provide a much more detailed and hopefully less expensive plan and cost.” 

“The entire system will benefit from these upgrades,” she said.

Proposed conditions for the project to continue include a $160,000 contribution from the town toward the work from the Sewer Enterprise Fund to bring the Route 6 and Elswick pump stations back up to their original design capacity, and replace any of the existing “kicker” motors with generators. 

An additional $100,000 for this project will be pulled from funds paid by the developers of Lincoln Park for sewer upgrades.

The developer would also contribute $250,000 as a “mitigation payment” for the town sewer department’s increased workflow. Before any construction starts, First Dartmouth LLC would also contribute up to $50,000 to pay for the engineering design to develop the plans for the pump station upgrades.

Board Member Michael Medeiros wondered if the applicants could contribute more, noting his concern about the project “placing a burden on the taxpayers of this town.”

“Ultimately, that’s the cost that’s going to be imposed on us,” he said. “And it’s going to translate to higher tax rates for everybody.” 

According to North, the Select Board is aware of how much the town will need to fund the project, but noted that there are opportunities for grants.

“There’s been lots of discussion — we’ve been talking about these costs for a good year-and-a-half,” she said. “[They] understand the position that the town will be in.” 

Officials also expressed concerns with potential issues surrounding the reuse of any leftover building materials from a potential demolition of Joe’s Used Cycles — the lot where the proposed complex would be built. 

In the 1970s, hundreds of drums containing toxic pollutants were discovered to have been stored and dumped on the property by a company called H&M Drum. There have also been documented instances of releases of toxic chemicals on the property. According to ZBA Chair Halim Chouba, there is still some contamination within the walls.

North assured the Board that before demolition, an engineer would conduct a hazardous materials assessment of the building to check for contamination, adding that any hazardous materials would likely be disposed of.

Ultimately, the Board voted to close the public hearing that was first opened two years ago. The permit for the complex will be voted on at the ZBA’s Mar. 10 meeting.