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MERRIMAC, MA-In this small town located about 45 minutes outside of Boston on the Route 495 corridor the impact of the state’s controversial affordable-housing law is making itself felt. Three different developers have recently come forward to request comprehensive permits for three different multifamily project proposals that total 534 units.

According to the state’s affordable-housing law, if a developer has at least 25% affordable housing in a proposed residential project in a city or town that does not have at least 10% of its housing designated affordable, local zoning laws can be bypassed. This past summer, a bill was proposed to enact changes to the law, including expanding the definition of what is considered affordable housing. But Governor Jane Swift vetoed the bill, and as Pat True, Merrimac’s town clerk, points out, that is what opened up the town to the sudden influx of affordable housing proposals.

Under discussion in the bill was whether to include mobile homes in the definition of affordable housing. With two mobile home parks, Merrimac would have easily passed its 10% requirement had the definition been expanded. “We cannot assimilate all of these units,” True tells GlobeSt.com. “This is why people don’t like 40B.” True says that the strains the added population will have on the town’s school system, water and other municipal services will force an increase in property taxes that will force some people to have to leave. “I can’t afford to pay more taxes,” she says.

The would-be projects include a 28-unit complex on Greenleaf Drive proposed by Milton Smith; a 38-unit development on West Main Street proposed by West Main Street Realty Trust; and, a 468-unit project on Chellis Hill proposed by Waterhouse Realty Trust.

True notes that the town is trying to get the Chellis Hill project scaled back and she anticipates that the developer will cut down on some of the units. Abutters to the Greenleaf project have hired an attorney to fight that project although it is unclear if they have any legal grounds for their opposition.

If the three projects are ultimately approved, the town will not have to worry about dealing with any additional 40B projects: the three projects put the town well over its required 10% affordable housing.

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