As a mother, my hope that someday I will live near my adult children and grandchildren fades as the cost of housing becomes more out of reach.
When I bought my townhouse at Redbrook, the developer, A.D. Makepeace Company, displayed a master plan showing a beautiful “Commons,” with an open green for gatherings, a row of restaurants, and some commercial buildings (an ATM and primary care practice that is full). Behind the restaurants was a community garden and playground. In front of the playground, facing Wareham Road, the master plan I was provided depicted a small building (where there currently is a trailer) and [labeled it] “future development.”
Around the perimeter of the commons, there is the housing at Redbrook: townhomes and “twin” or duplex homes; apartment buildings; and neighborhoods with traditional single-family homes. There is no “housing” inside the Commons. Once the buildout of Redbrook is substantially completed, the residents will manage the commons and infrastructure (private well water and wastewater system), giving us a stake in what is done.
An article about affordable housing published in the Plymouth Independent on Nov. 21 prompted AD Makepeace to send the following email to residents:
“[A] new component of Redbrook catering to local senior citizens is in planning stages and will soon become public. The Grantham Residences at Redbrook Village will be a 53-unit affordable housing community for seniors to be developed by the Grantham Group [Grantham] in conjunction with the A.D. Makepeace Company. [AD Makepeace] will donate the land, valued at approximately $2.2 million, and Grantham is seeking public support from the Town of Plymouth Affordable Housing Trust and Community Preservation Committee [CPC] to ensure that 100 percent of the Project’s units are affordable….”
A sketch followed of the proposed building that did not mirror the footprint of the small building originally depicted on the Master Plan. Rather, it was a massive L-shaped, three-story building having frontage on both Wareham Road and Sunflower Way. Only the minimum amount of parking was provided based on an outdated zoning law falsely assuming that persons 62 or older (“elderly”) do not drive and that residents of “affordable” housing cannot afford cars, and the centralized playground was gone.
At the Dec. 7 meeting before the CPC, A.D. Makepeace provided the members with their application. The meeting was continued one week. I then discovered that other town CPC fund applications provided some level of due process to abutters of a project and sought community involvement before any vote. Not so in Plymouth.
Under the special permit awarded in 2008, a “substantial” modification requires that public notice be given and a hearing be held before the planning board. William Koehan, the CPC chair, noted this procedural defect when he voted against the application. The special permit in 2008 imposed on this private developer the affordable housing obligation of 103 units. A.D. Makepeace has had no issues developing numerous market rate apartments, and selling land that otherwise was not buildable, at a profit to various companies to build townhomes, twin homes and single-family residences. Now, it wants our taxpayer money to fund slightly more than half of its affordable housing obligation – 53 out of 103 units. (CPC funds come from a surcharge on real estate taxes of all residents of Plymouth). How is shifting slightly half of its obligation not a “substantial change” to the special permit requiring due process notice and a right to be heard by the Planning Board? It is outrageous.
Equally outrageous is the size, scale, location, and target population of the project. The project shoehorns a three-story L-shaped structure in an already dense commercial area, eliminating existing vegetation, open space, and a centralized playground. Unlike all the other housing at Redbrook which exists around the perimeter of the Commons, this complex is slated to be inside the Commons.
In this location, the elderly residents would have a view of the back of the restaurants, which currently includes garbage cans, wash buckets, floor mats hanging on railings, shovels, street brooms, and a chain link fence enclosing some dumpsters. In contrast, A.D. Makepeace provides many amenities to the market rate apartment residents:
“Outdoor entertaining area with gas grills and ample seating; Resort style pool with chaise lounges; Open concept Clubhouse with fireplace, multi-function room and gaming; 24/hour fully equipped Fitness Center; Outdoor lounge area with fire pit; Valet trash pickup service outside your front door; Access to the park-style common; Convenient centralized mail center with package concierge system; Immediate access to bike paths [and] leisure trails; Covered parking garages available to lease; Private storage available to lease; Pet-Friendly community; Pickleball courts; [and] Monthly Resident Appreciation events.”
Despite data from Plymouth’s Housing Production Plan (December 2023), showing that the elderly currently are last on the list of those waiting for affordable housing in Plymouth, A.D. Makepeace ignores the obligation to provide housing for families who are in the most need. And, residents of affordable housing should be integrated into the existing residential housing structure, not segregated.
Make no mistake, A.D. Makepeace can get much more for its buck cramming a bunch of “elderly” people into an area where “market rate” residents do not reside and where “market rate” amenities are non-existent. To date, despite the lucrative construction of numerous townhouses, twin homes, market-rate apartments, and single-family residences, only 15 affordable units of housing have been created at Redbrook. And now, A.D. Makepeace wants to shift slightly more than half of its longstanding affordable housing obligation on taxpayers? The Planning Board needs to start enforcing the terms of its own special permit. The procedure followed was improper, the express terms of the special permit call for integrated, and not segregated, affordable housing that is inclusionary of all demographics. The Planning Board should remove the article from the warrant and hold A.D. Makepeace to the bargain it made in 2008.
Karass is a resident of the Redbrook development.
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