Members of the public will be able offer their questions and opinions about the proposed SLV affordable housing project at the Feb. 9 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
This is a chance for the public to weigh in on the controversial project, which is seeking a comprehensive permit for the 136-unit apartment complex, known as The Sanctuary. It would be located on Shingle Hill, off School Street, opposite the entrance of Atwater Avenue.
The ZBA discussed a traffic and safety peer review from Environmental Partners. Greg Lucas, a Senior Project Manager with Environmental Partners, gave an overview at the Jan. 12 meeting
At the Jan. 26 meeting, the ZBA hired Beals and Thomas, an engineering and architectural company in Southborough, to handle peer reviews for both the environmental plans and the engineering and site plans for the proposed apartment complex.
Beals and Thomas was the only company to apply to put together the peer review for the engineering and site plan. Beals and Thomas, along with two other companies, Beta and BFC, had applied to do the environmental peer review.
Developer Geoffrey Engler of SLV School St. LLC is seeking a comprehensive permit for the project through the state’s Chapter 40B provisions, which allows the developer to bypass many local regulations in exchange for providing affordable housing to the community.
Twenty five percent of The Sanctuary’s units (34) are reserved for affordable housing, which under 40B would allow Manchester to count all 136 of the development’s units on the town’s official Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI).
But the Chapter 40B project still requires approval from the ZBA. The peer reviews are areas that the ZBA may object to or seek changes to the project. In addition to the environmental and engineering and site plans, peer reviews have already been undertaken for traffic concerns.
Much of Wednesday's meeting was spent discussing areas of information that the board felt it needed from Engler to accomplish the environmental and engineering peer reviews.
While Engler agreed to provide much of the required information, Engler rejected a suggestion he provide a full geo-technic analysis, basically an analysis of the physical characteristics of the soil and rock on the property. It helps in making decisions about designing roads, foundations to buildings and installing wastewater systems.
“We are not doing a full geo-technical analysis, based on where we are in the process,” said Engler. “If the Zoning Board wants to condition that, as a condition of receiving a building permit, we would be fine with that. But we don’t even know if we are getting a permit here.”
George Pucci, of the Town Counsel’s office, said it is possible that Beals and Thomas will request a geo-technical analysis as part of its peer review. However, he added, if the analysis is ultimately not provided, it was a reason for denying the permit for the project.
Later in the meeting ZBA Chairwoman Sarah Mellish asked Engler if he could provide any geo-technical information that already existed. A couple of the board members had pointed out that test pits had been dug around the site as early as 2019. A test pit is a hole to test where ground water is and how quickly water absorbs into the earth.
Engler agreed to supply that information.
The two peer reviews will be completed in three to five weeks. The cost of the environmental peer review is $11,500, while the engineering and site plan peer review will cost $17,500.
The hearing was continued until Feb. 9, when, in addition to hearing from the public, the board will discuss traffic and public safety peer review and select a company to handle the architectural peer review.