CITIZENS' INITIATIVE FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
There's a better way to meet this community's needs.
Open Letter to MassHousing
In late April SLV applied to MassHousing for a Project Eligibility Letter (PEL) to construct a 136-unit development at Shingle Place Hill. The application and the developer's plans are posted on the Town's website. MassHousing will accept public comment regarding this project through June 18. CIMAH drafted the following letter to MassHousing to illustrate some of the critical concerns raised by the project. We hope you consider signing this community letter.
To Representatives of MassHousing:
We, the undersigned citizens of Manchester, respectfully request that for three reasons MassHousing deny Strategic Land Ventures (SLV)’s request for a Project Eligibility Letter (PEL):
The Town of Manchester has made real progress towards its Affordable Housing Goals.
North Shore Community Development Coalition (NSCDC) recently purchased 1-3 Powder House Lane, with 29 existing rental units located in the heart of Manchester. NSCDC, a mission-driven non-profit, will preserve these 29 affordable units in perpetuity. More than 260 local families demonstrated their support for integrated, affordable housing by donating more than $1.5 million to NSCDC. No tax dollars were needed. NSCDC’s project serves people at 50-60% of AMI, compared to SLV’s “affordable” units at 80% of AMI. The Manchester Affordable Housing Trust (MAHT), established in 2016 to increase the diversity of housing options for Manchester’s low- and moderate-income households, endorsed the project, which is compatible with the town’s Housing Production Plan.
SLV’s proposal poses risks to the life, health and safety of residents.
Dangerous road. With a single, steep cul-de-sac access road 1900 feet long and no secondary access road, even SLV agrees with the Town’s independent Traffic Impact Consultant, who characterized the project as “less safe.” Emergency vehicles might block families seeking to leave the property. Worse still, vehicles double parked or broken down could block emergency vehicles seeking access to the site.
No sidewalk. The proposed project appears to violate Fair Housing standards by placing at risk any resident who seeks to exit the property on foot or wheelchair. An extensive ramp system is required – but not included in the design – to address access and safety challenges under ADA.
Threatens drinking water supply. Sawmill Brook, which wraps around three sides of Shingle Hill, links downstream via induced infiltration to the Lincoln Street well – the source of roughly half Manchester’s drinking water. The project would generate significant stormwater runoff on this water supply, and on the related aquifer recharge area and reserve public water supply.
Harmful blasting. Repeated exposures to air overpressure and ground vibration from the removal of 40 feet of rock on Shingle Hill poses risks to the public water supply and the outstanding wildlife habitat within adjacent Town-owned conservation areas.
On-site wastewater treatment a major environmental risk. It deploys two large leaching fields in granite outcroppings connected by a pipe running through a highly sensitive wetland.
Menaces Conservation Land. The site abuts or overlooks 1600 acres of conservation land conserved by, among others, Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust and The Trustees of Reservations - each of which has expressed its strong opposition to SLV’s proposal.
SLV’s proposal is inappropriate for the site and inconsistent with local needs.
After blasting 40 feet of rock off the top and north section of Shingle Hill, SLV’s large structure will tower over a 90-degree sloped ledge. SLV’s plan entails monumental engineering for 136 units (only 34 of which would be designated affordable) and 226 cars, with rampart-like retaining walls that will strip vegetation from the hillside and loom 65 feet over School Street. Because of the severe drop-offs, the project is in many cases surrounded by a chain link fence “for fall protection”. The project from the roof to the bottom of the retaining wall would reach approximately 75 feet, the equivalent of a seven-story high building. Considering the elevation from the entrance of the property, the project would appear 107 feet tall - similar to an eleven-story building and grossly inconsistent with the town’s existing structures. It threatens the natural environment, it is vastly out of scope in relation to its surroundings and municipal planning, and it is a devastating blow to generations of care for open space.
The 34 units of affordable housing would be priced for people earning 80 percent of area median income or more, isolated from the rest of the town, and nearly two miles away from public transportation. Manchester needs affordable housing priced at lower AMI rates and fully integrated into our community. Manchester has taken concrete action to close the affordable housing gap in our town with local solutions to our town’s housing needs. We hope that you will deny a PEL for this inferior project which poses concerns to the health and/or safety of the occupants and the residents of Manchester and allow us to finish our work.
Thank you for considering our request. The undersigned residents: