Nearly 100 island residents turned out to protest the controversial Surfside Crossing housing development Thursday as the state Housing Appeals Committee held a site visit at the South Shore Road property.
The site visit marks the final stage of the project review by the state committee, which has final jurisdiction over the 156-condominium development and is expected to issue its decision over the next few months. The crowd that gathered at the property on Thursday – many of them neighbors of the proposed development – held signs that read “Not Safe” and “A Threat to Nantucket’s Aquifer” and followed the presiding officer of the Housing Appeals Committee, Werner Lohe, as he toured the area with the project team and others. The opposition group Nantucket Tipping Point had been posting yard signs around the island for weeks urging people to attend the site visit.
“It’s important for Boston to hear and see what the community actually has to say about this project and how we feel about this project, versus what Surfside Crossing has put into their legal briefs, because those are two very different opinions,” said Meghan Perry Glowacki, a board member of Nantucket Tipping Point and candidate for Nantucket Select Board who lives close to the proposed project site.
Surfside Crossing developers Jamie Feeley and Josh Posner are seeking approval from the state committee to build 156 condominium homes, contained within 18 three-story buildings (two stories above grade) on 13 acres of undeveloped pine forest. There would be 117 market rate units, and 39 condos priced at affordable rates for residents making 80 percent or below the area median income.
Feeley was in attendance at yesterday’s site visit, and at one point was heckled by Burton “Spruce” Balkind, another board member of Nantucket Tipping Point.
“Jamie, this is a nice development,” Balkind yelled at Feeley, pointing toward the neighboring Sachem’s Path development of 40 single family homes, all deed-restricted affordable units. “Why don’t you do that, then we can all go home.” Feeley didn’t respond. He also declined to comment at the site visit, and did not return an e-mail message.
The Housing Appeals Committee has final say over Surfside Crossing, even though the local Zoning Board of Appeals previously approved a scaled-down version of the project that would allow 40 single family homes. The plans for Surfside Crossing were filed under a state statute known as Chapter 40B, which allows developers to bypass local zoning regulations and increase density if at least 20 to 25 percent of the new units have long-term affordability restrictions.
Shawn Cabral, a resident of South Shore Road, emphasized that there were other 40B developments around the area – including Sachem’s Path and Abrem Quary – that didn’t receive the backlash that Surfside Crossing has because all of their units were deed restricted to be affordable, not just the minimum required by the state. “This isn’t a NIMBY (not in my back yard) thing,” Cabral said.
As he hammered a sign into the ground along South Shore Road yesterday that read “Only Benefits Developer, Not Our Community,” Patrick Taaffe said “they’ll end up bringing in people from off-island to buy these units. It’s not a local thing.”
Meanwhile, the Surfside Crossing development is also the subject of ongoing litigation in Nantucket Superior Court, where a hearing was held yesterday morning on the Nantucket Land Council’s appeal of the Housing Appeals Committee’s denial of its ability to participate as an intervening party.
Nantucket Land Council attorney Peter Fenn remarked on the attendance at the site visit and the ongoing court case: “This is extraordinary. If we win, this starts all over.”
Werner Lohe, the presiding officer of the Housing Appeals Committee, will soon make a recommendation to the members of the committee, who will then vote to approve or deny the project.
Neighbors like, like Mary Beth Splaine, will be waiting anxiously for the news.
“This proposed development shouldn’t ever be approved,” Splaine said. “It will pave over part of a beautiful 13 acres and will be a challenge to our aquifer. There will be toxic runoff, which will be a challenge to our wells in the neighborhood. But it’s not a neighborhood issue it’s a Nantucket issue. We’ve reached a tipping point where our island cannot bear the infrastructure to go with this. There could be 300 cars coming out of this driveway, which means it will be a bottleneck for south shore road. I live next door in what I’d hoped would be my forever home, but I don’t know. The neighborhood’s changing.”