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Selectmen Shoot Down New 40B Plan

Proposal calls for 300 rental units on Greendale Avenue.

Needham selectmen on Tuesday unanimously rejected an early proposal for a new 300-unit 40B development on Greendale Avenue, saying the plan was “outrageous” and that a project of this size would “redefine the neighborhood.”

A project of Mill Creek Residential (formerly Trammell Crow Residential), the “Needham Mews” development calls for 300 rental units on 6.02 acres of land on Greendale Avenue. The project involves two lots that currently feature single-family houses, at 692 and 744 Greendale Ave. The site is bordered by Route 128 to the north, Greendale Avenue to the south, Greendale Avenue Worship Center to the east and Hardy Street to the west, according to legal documents filed in September with the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency.

Plans include three four-story buildings, with two of the rear buildings connected by a one-story “amenity area,” and a two-level parking garage located underneath each of the three buildings, according to documents filed with MassHousing.

Though the project is still in the early stages and would require a public hearing with the Needham Zoning Board of Appeals, among other steps, selectmen said on Tuesday they felt Mill Creek Residential’s application was a “non starter.”

“I think this project totally redefines the entire nature of that neighborhood, and it seems to me that’s not the purpose of affordable housing,” Selectman Moe Handel said. “The purpose of affordable housing is to get people into a situation where they can be part of a neighborhood.”

Selectman John Bulian said the site had been under agreement for development a few years ago and that the owner then had proposed 50-60 units—a number that was knocked down to about 24-32 units after town review. The development never came to fruition.

“I would love to send a letter saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’, but I know we can’t do that,” Bulian said. “This is just so out of character for this neighborhood.”

Selectman Jerry Wasserman said 300 rental units would “overload” the area, adding considerable traffic and killing the existing natural buffer between existing homes and busy Route 128.

“The neighborhood doesn’t really have the capacity to handle that type of project,” he said.

Selectman Dan Matthews said the town had done a lot of work on affordable housing issues in town already and had made “significant progress” on reaching the state-set 10 percent goal. But the Needham Mews project, he said, would exceed what is appropriate for Needham.

Selectman Matt Borrelli called the application a “non starter” and said it seemed to exploit the 40B statute.

The board will draft a letter to MassHousing addressing their concerns.

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