Harborlight could divest from Longmeadow in Hamilton, but doubles down in Wenham


An apartment complex at Longmeadow Way is looking more and more like a long shot.

Harborlight Community Partners (HCP), the Beverly-based developer of affordable housing, will likely make a final decision regarding the development of their 40-unit apartment complex at the end of Longmeadow Way by the end of April.

HCP Executive Director Andrew DeFranza said he’ll likely advise the HCP Board of Directors to divest from Longmeadow unless the Affordable Housing Trust (AHT) inks an agreement for $300,000 from their coffers, and by proxy, a tacit agreement of support, towards the project within the next several weeks.

The eleventh hour for a decision chimed following the Longmeadow Study Committee’s official report at Hamilton Town Meeting on April 7. The committee, formed following a citizen’s petition at Town Meeting in 2017, included members from the two town’s recreation board, Regional School Committee, and respective Board of Selectmen.

Their report ultimately concluded neither town had a use for the field, but the Regional School Committee could potentially find a use as a site for a new school building. The Regional School Committee said they’d be willing to investigate the option for a new school, but haven’t taken further action thus far.

The committee was allowed one year to study, according to the petition, and DeFranza said the amount of time his organization can spend debating the pros and cons is coming to a close.

“I don’t see a viable way through at Longmeadow,” DeFranza said. “We’re not in a position to hold. … The ideal circumstance would have been 40 units and the school, but that’s not available to us… there’s not a way forward for me.”

He added divesting of Longmeadow would also leave the proposed 20-unit age-restricted apartments downtown “very vulnerable.” DeFranza has stressed the senior only apartments along Willow Street would only be possible with a sister site for an all-inclusive project elsewhere in town.

Whatever decision HCP makes for Longmeadow, their board meeting will end a pivotal chapter in the ongoing saga of the parcel that began in late 2015.

HCP started discussing plans to develop an affordable apartment complex at the tail end of Longmeadow Way with the AHT around latter half of 2015. The initial proposal met with tentative support from the AHT, but abutters enraged by the proposal thrust both the AHT and HCP in to the limelight at Town Meeting in the spring of 2016.

Abutters, primarily those along Ortins Road, Bay Road, and Longmeadow Way itself, argued the project was both too large for the community and situated in the wrong location. The AHT worked with Harborlight to eventually whittle the project down to 40 units from the initial pitch of 108, but couldn’t locate another site in town without triggering a collective agita in other neighborhoods.

DeFranza declined to specify further plans involving the site at Longmeadow, should HCP divest.

As Harborlight’s future partnership and work in Hamilton remains in tenuous balance, the developer is going all-in on their senior housing project for Wenham.

A tentative trial date in Superior Court has been set in September for the ongoing lawsuit over Maple Woods, a 60-unit apartment complex restricted to seniors located behind 28 Maple St.

From 2013 to 2015, the Maple Woods project underwent a long permitting and vetting process through Wenham’s numerous boards before being approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in April of 2015.

After the approval, a dozen abutters almost immediately launched a lawsuit to halt the project. Their primary objections include the overall number of units in the project and the design of the project’s septic system in a wetland area.

DeFranza said the Affordable Housing Trust had committed $850,000 to the project, with commitment dependent upon a vote by the Board of Selectmen, and filed a request with the Community Preservation Committee for a $975,000 contribution, dependent upon a Town Meeting vote. DeFranza said that money could be used to pay for the land’s purchase price of $1.8 million or applied to any other part of the project depending upon conditions imposed by the town.

The AHT supported the initial request but the selectmen did not take up further action as the legal proceedings began. HCP ultimately withdrew the CPC request before the formal application process for similar reasons.

Original article from Wicked Local Hamilton: