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WALTHAM, MA-Developers of a residential project here at Lake and Lexington streets are seeking a comprehensive permit through Chapter 40B of state law, which allows developers to override local zoning restrictions as long as they provide at least 25% affordable units in a town with less than 10% of affordable housing.

Lincoln Property Co. wants to develop a 301-unit residential complex here on a 22-acre site. According to John Noone, a local partner with Lincoln Property Co., 75 of the units would be set aside as affordable housing. The proposal is currently before the zoning board of appeals here because, says Noone, “This is a commercially zoned site.” The company would like it zoned for multifamily housing and increase the density. Noone points out that if the state denies the company its permit, it can appeal to the state Housing Board of Appeals.

But Patrick Powell, building inspector for the city, tells GlobeSt.com that the way the law is set up, the city cannot refuse the developer’s appeal. “Our arms are tied,” he says. “They can ram it down our throats. It’s not a good situation to be in.” Powell points out that this is Lincoln Property’s second proposal for the site. The first one was for fewer apartments without affordable housing but they withdrew that proposal when it needed zoning changes. “This way, there is nothing the town can do,” he notes.

This is this city’s first proposal under the affordable housing law, which has recently come under question by state legislators, because of the claims by some towns that developers are using it to circumvent local restrictions. Powell says that local activists are trying to organize to prevent the development from going through. “Some people here say that this is the price of development, but others really don’t want it,” says Powell.

Noone acknowledges that there is some local opposition to the project but he insists that the concerns are similar to any project this size. He also notes that the project is less than 14 units per acre, which is not very dense.

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