Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

It was a split decision for a 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway before the Planning Board on Tuesday night.

For the second time in less than a year, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND).

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway. The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

However, the project did not garner the necessary votes from the Planning Board for a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant special permits for the project for parking and lot coverage relief.

The project will still come before the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for approval, but if the revised project is to move forward, it will have to do so without the Planning Board’s seal of approval.

Four of the six board members who voted Monday night did support recommending the special permits to the ZBA. But given the need to pull in a two-thirds vote of the overall nine-member board, it wasn’t enough to gain official approval of the project.

Planning Board members Todd Taylor and Shuvam Bhaumik cast the votes against the recommendation, in large part echoing the parking and larger economic impact of the project on the city.

Monday night’s two hour public hearing covered a lot of familiar ground for residents and city officials who have been following the course of the project over the past year.

Supporters of the project touted TND’s past successes in providing affordable housing in the city and the continued need to provide more affordable housing units in the city.

Those opposed to or with reservations about the development raised questions about traffic and parking, as well as continued development that puts affordable rental units on the market without providing for home ownership opportunities.

Representatives from TND and the Traggorth Companies presented their revised plans for the project, much as they had to the ZBA during an initial meeting earlier this month.

The major revisions to the proposed $15 million project include cutting the total number of units from 42 to 38, making all the units affordable, and eliminating the fifth story of the building that had been proposed for the Broadway side of the development.

The commercial space on the first floor in the initial proposal has also been eliminated and replaced by a community room.

“The goal of the project has not changed since we have begun,” said Tanya Hahnel of the Traggorth Companies. “Our number one goal is to provide affordable housing and increase public access to Mill Creek.”

The original proposal denied by the ZBA totaled 42 units, with nine of those at market rate. The revised plans cut four units out, and lower the height of the building facing Broadway from five to four stories.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four), according to TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units, Laferriere said.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

As with almost all development proposals in Chelsea, traffic and parking are a major roadblock to support for approval.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said the project at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street will only worsen a nightmare traffic and parking scenario.

While Perlatonda said the city needs more affordable housing, he said it can’t be at the detriment of the many residents who live in the already crowded and congested neighborhood.

“How are we going to get in and out of there?” he asked. “I think the board really needs to think this through.”

But for others, including City Council President Damali Vidot, the need for affordable housing units in Chelsea trumps the traffic and parking concerns.

“Housing shouldn’t be something we argue about,” said Vidot. “Affordable housing creation is absolutely needed.”

Vidot, who said she has almost never supported development in the city, said her main concern about the Traggorth/TND project was its impact on parking.

Hahnel said the developers would be willing to consider an agreement where residents would not be eligible to apply for city street parking stickers, thereby helping ease parking congestion in the neighborhood.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda took a different view of the affordable rental units.

While Avellaneda said he is a supporter of affordable housing in Chelsea, he questioned TND’s recent history of developing affordable rental units at the expense of creating affordable home ownership opportunities.

“TND has a (real estate) portfolio but they keep building apartments,” said the councillor. “Where is the home ownership? Where is the balance?”

Avellaneda said the lack of more affordable home ownership opportunities in Chelsea is pricing out middle income and working families who want to set down roots in the city.

Taylor echoed Avellaneda’s sentiments that a lack of home ownership is an issue in Chelsea.

“I bet that by 2020, the new statistics will show that there is more affordable housing than home ownership (in Chelsea),” he said. “That’s not a good place to be in, and this is a problem that the city should really address.”

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