December 15, 2017

Anawan School Project: A precedent for future developments

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Three major housing projects are currently being considered by various commissions and boards in the Town of Rehoboth. One involves 40 homes, another 200 homes, and, finally, we have the Anawan School Project apartment complex with a potential capacity of 82 occupants on a lot the size of a typical single-family home. If approved for 51 Bay State Road, I see no reason why three-story, 82 apartment complexes could not spring up on any two acre plot all over the town. Thus, if not properly assessed, the impact of the Anawan School Project could not only have negative outcomes for the abutting home owners, but will definitely set a precedent for pending projects on Spring Street and Bliss Street, and all development in the future. The Anawan School Project developer’s comprehensive plan might be delivered to our Zoning Board soon after the middle of December. After that, approval by a simple majority (three Zoning Board members) is needed to accept the plans for the development, which is rumored to be likely. Town Counsel (Jay Talerman) and the Chair of the Zoning Board both claim the project is a ‘done deal’. Both have shown absolutely no interest in many technical issues raised by the community; nor have we heard input from other concerned boards and commissions. And the Town’s engineers have been handcuffed by the scope of their instructions from town offices. However, anyone taking the time to browse the web sites of the State’s overseers of such projects  the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Mass Department of Environmental Protection  will see that both agencies favor data-driven, evidence-based decisions tailored to the environmental setting and concerns of the local community. The key term, here, is ‘evidence’, which Town Counsel and the Zoning Board have failed to request from the developer. And, if not provided by the developer, the town officers have failed to instruct our own engineers to provide residents with the essential information for assessing the potential impact of the project on the community. If this type of assault is permitted for the Anawan School Project, it sets a precedent for high density development throughout Rehoboth. If the Rehoboth Zoning Board does not exercise its due diligence, the community needs to step forward.

Jack (John F) Hermance

75 Ash Street

e-mail: john_hermance@brown.edu

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