City Council Considers Smart Growth for Innes Housing Development

By Adam Swift

The pieces continue to fall in place for the proposed 330-unit mixed-income redevelopment of the Innes Housing Development on Central Avenue.

Tuesday night, the City Council held a public meeting with state officials and developers on the 40R Smart Growth overlay zoning that the council will need to approve before the City can become eligible for at least $11 million in state funding for the project.

In addition, with passage of the 40R zoning, Chelsea could receive a little over an additional $1 million from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

About half of that money would go to Corcoran Development, which has partnered with the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) to redevelop the Innes Housing Development in two phases. The 96 public housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to reduce relocation of residents.

“We’re having this meeting so we can have more understanding about the 40R zoning amendment for smart growth,” said Judith Garcia, the District 5 Councillor.

The Planning Board is expected to make a recommendation on the smart growth zoning at its next meeting Tuesday night, clearing the way for a final City Council vote.

The basic requirements for a 40R district are an eligible location preferably in a city or town center, near public transportation, and allowing minimum by-right density of eight single-family units, twelve 2-3 family units, and 20 multi-family units per acre, according to William Reyelt of the DHCD.

“It has to be primarily a residential district, but we do encourage mixed-use development,” said Reyelt.

In addition, age restrictions cannot be required in the smart growth districts, and 20 percent of the total units must be affordable, he said.

Once the zoning is approved by the city and then verified by the state, the city will get its first incentive payment from the state, Reyelt said. With smart growth zoning, communities are also eligible for additional density bonuses and school reimbursement payments.

Currently, there are 47 smart growth districts in 41 communities across the state, Reyelt said.

Unsurprisingly, parking was the biggest area of concern raised by City Councilors during the question and answer portion of Tuesday night’s presentation, although there are no specific parking requirements or regulations built into the 40R zoning.

“The project is great, but not at the expense of the citizens in the area,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “We need to have a very serious conversation about it.”

There will be 276 parking spaces on site, and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking. Initially, the developers proposed 226 spaces, but Ronnie Slammin of Corcoran said an additional 50 spaces are now in the plans.

The current CHA residents are eligible for street parking permits, and will continue to be able to park at the redeveloped Innes housing for free as part of the CHA’s 99-year lease with Corcoran.

But several councilors said they still had concerns about how parking would impact the neighborhood.

“Before the Council moves forward, that will definitely have to be on the table,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he wants to make sure the current CHA residents are allowed to park on-site and not forced on the street for parking.

District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez said he wanted assurances that the 96 public housing units would remain under CHA control.

“Those 96 units will always be filled by public housing tenants,” said CHA Director Al Ewing assured.

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