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CANTON, MA-A New Jersey-based developer wants to build a 500-unit residential project on a site that straddles this town and neighboring Randolph. The developer, Roseland Property Co., plans to include an affordable-housing component in the project and that is where the controversy begins.

Under state law, developments with a 25% component of affordable housing in a town that hasn’t reached its 10% required affordable-housing component can bypass local zoning laws. Paul Connors, the executive secretary for the town, tells GlobeSt.com that according to the state Randolph has 5.65% affordable housing. He says that the town is in the process of reviewing those documents from the state and he adds that while Roseland has not made a formal proposal to his town yet, the company did express its intent to file a proposal within the month.

But it is in Canton that things could potentially be more complicated. Roger Nicholas, the town planner, tells GlobeSt.com that Roseland has also made it clear to his town that it plans to file a formal proposal for a 500-unit project. But Nicholas says that whereas the state indicates that Canton has 8% affordable housing, the town thinks it has a little over 10%. According to Nicholas, the state is going by the US census data while the town is basing its numbers on the tax records of the town.

The 2% difference is crucial. If the town is above its required amount of affordable housing then it is in control of the project. If its zoning board of appeals denies the project a permit, the developer has no recourse. But if the town is under the 10% requirement, the developer can appeal the town’s decision to the state, which will force the town to grant the development a permit unless there are certain objective conditions the project doesn’t meet. “Normally,” notes Nicholas, “something like this would go through if a town has less than 10% [affordable housing].”

But, as Nicholas points out, without an answer from the state as to the status of the town it is all unclear. Calls to Roseland were not returned by press time.

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