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SHEBORN, MA-Residents in this town and Ashland have established a coalition to oppose a planned housing development in their midst. The coalition–Sherborn and Ashland Neighbors for Responsible and Appropriate Development–is concerned that the proposed 70-unit project will strain the local schools and road and impact the environment.

Marc Connelly, who spoke for the coalition at a recent community meeting, tells GlobeSt.com that the parcel on which the housing development would be built is part of the former Schiavi Farm that borders this town, Ashland and Holliston. “They are worried about the groundwater and the wetlands around there and the number of units that are being proposed, he says, referring to the coalition. The group’s founder, Erica Lewis, did not return calls by presstime but on its website the group writes, “We are a group of residents of Sherborn, Massachusetts and the surrounding area who are concerned about the impact of the development of 40 to 70 housing units (25% affordable) on the 28 acres of ponds, stream, and meadows located at 59 Whitney St.” According to the site, the property has wetlands, a stream, and a section that floods periodically.

The developer, Rising Tide Development purchased the farm last summer and plans to make 25% of the units affordable. The affordable housing component of the project puts the project safely within Chapter 40B, the controversial state law that enables developers to bypass some local zoning laws if a project has a certain percentage of affordable housing in a town that has not met its ten percent requirement of affordable housing. The law will enable Rising Tide to also build more units than normally allowed. The company could not be reached by GlobeSt.com.

But on its site the coalition contends that “40B allows the applicant to ask for exemption to our local bylaws in situations where said bylaws make the project uneconomic, with the onus on the applicant to demonstrate why the exemption is necessary for the project to continue. Therefore, we should fully consider our local bylaws until such time as the applicant makes and proves an exemption claim under 40B.” The coalition also insists that state law and the Department of Environmental Protection afford the town resources certain protections from development. Furthermore the group insists that town bylaws have more stringent review procedures and should not be pre-empted by less stringent state wetlands laws.

Consultants for the group are investigating links between the property’s natural water resources and wells here and in neighboring towns, as well as the potential impact the proposed development could have on the well water. These consultants are due to meet with the town’s conservation commission and with conservation consultants from Rising Tide.

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