Emblem Hyannis a poster little one for housing, open house balancing act

HYANNIS — People at Tuesday’s public hearing on a proposed 312-unit development on Scudder Avenue could only agree on thing: The Cape needs more affordable and attainable housing.

During the three-hour meeting of a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee, comments ranged from staunch support to outright opposition.

Critics contend the developer, Lennar Multifamily Communities, has proposed a project that is too big, too dense, too challenging for a fragile environment and will create too much traffic in an already congested corridor.

Proponents say the project will bring needed housing to a region desperate for it, and that it’s in an area that can be tied into water and sewer lines, and is walkable to downtown.

The hearing was the first in a series of meetings the subcommittee will hold before sending it to the full commission for a vote. The session marked the first chance the public had to weigh in.

The apartment complex that LMC is proposing, called Emblem Hyannis, would be located at 35 Scudder Ave. on land now occupied by the Twin Brooks Golf Course.

LMC has proposed building 13 three-story residential buildings that would hold 312 units composed of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. A clubhouse, fitness center, pool, 493 parking spots and residential buildings would be surrounded by nearly 20 acres of conservation-restricted land on the 40-acre parcel.

Rents at the LMC project are expected to range from the mid-$1,000s to the upper-$2,000s, according to the developer. The complex would also, by law, include 32 units of affordable housing.

More: Apartment project: Twin Brooks owner says other proposals are “non-starters”

The project passes template under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. A citizens’ request for a fail-safe review was filed but determined to require no review by the state.

Developer Lenmar says Hyannis project has environmental protections

Representatives of LMC highlighted the conservation restriction on 20 acres, a stormwater management plan designed for a 100-year storm, flood plain restrictions, a reduction in nitrogen loading and a reduction in irrigation demand because there will no longer be a golf course on the site .

More: 312-unit Hyannis apartment complex undergoing state environmental review

Ed Pesce, a civil engineer with LMC, said the developer wants to purchase a power agreement through a renewable energy provider in lieu of building solar arrays. Pesce also said the developer is committed to contributing a fair share to pay for upgrades to a nearby pumping station because it is getting close to capacity.

Alisa Magnotta, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corporation, was one of the first to voice her support. She called the project unique because of its size and its consideration of the environment. She said projects that have access to sewer infrastructure, are walkable to main streets, and involve the redevelopment of underused land are ideal.

“Leveraging land and dollars to help conserve land and house people is a win/win for Cape Cod,” she said.

More: A complex issue: Planned Hyannis development stirs worry about housing, wetland protection

But representatives of Save Twin Brooks, an organization committed to preserving the land as open space, and the Barnstable Land Trust, found fault with the project plans.

Critics of Scudder Avenue project say developer’s facts fall short

Hired by Save Twin Brooks, Laura Krause, a scientist at the BETA Group, said conservation efforts lauded by the developer don’t meet certain performance standards under the Wetlands Protection Act and the Barnstable wetlands protection bylaw.

Krause said that impacts on the wetlands have not been quantified in the application or the environmental notification form submitted to the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency. She said that of 19 acres proposed for conservation restrictions, eight acres contain water, wetlands and streams, and three additional acres are in a portion of the flood plain that would prohibit construction anyway.

Gary James, a BETA Group engineer hired by Save Twin Brooks, said developers had overstated the volume of nitrogen that would be reduced with the planned development. He called the developer’s nitrogen-loading calculations into question.

Studies also understated traffic congestion around the rotary and in the immediate neighborhood, said Brian Hughes, vice president of Save Twin Brooks.

Janet Milkman, executive director of the Barnstable Land Trust, said it is possible to build housing and save open space at the same time, but she objected to the size and scale of the Emblem Hyannis proposal. The Trust has proposed its own plan for housing on the property.

“We recognize the need for housing,” she said. “Other sizes could work.”

But Magnotta says her nonprofit sees people every day who are looking for places to live. They are long-time Cape residents and renters, full-time workers who have been crucial members of the communities in which they live.

“We’ve spent two years working with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod to find areas like this to build housing,” she said.

Hundreds of units are needed to address the housing crisis, said former Barnstable Town Councilor Britt Beedenbender, calling into the meeting. She said open space was not on the table because the parcel had been a golf course, not an undeveloped parcel of land.

Cape Codders’ challenge: Finding an affordable place to live

Year-round resident Christina Bologna agreed. The 38-year-old said she’s moved six times in six years and wants to live in the town.

“I don’t want to buy; it’s out of reach,” she said.

Esin Sozer supports the project, saying there were few options for her when she was looking to rent a place with a $3,000 per month budget.

“You can’t live on the Cape,” she said. “If you want your kids and grandkids living on the Cape, support this project.”

Karolyn McClelland, who calls herself an affordable housing advocate, is also concerned about the environment. She urged the parties to come to the table to solve any problems.

“Why not control the ways we impact the environment?” she said.

She suggested maintaining golf courses organically, have plantings consistent with the environment, designating areas for pollinators and paying attention to the fertilizing and water requirements for individual yards. Conservation is a responsibility shared by all, she said.

Many of the 37 people who spoke had also sent in letters to the subcommittee, expanding on what they had to say in a three-minute comment period.

Contact Denise Coffey at dcoff[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.

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