Johnson Farm Controversy Moves to the Conservation Commission
Residents who oppose an affordable housing development planned for South Sudbury continue to voice concern.
Dozens of Sudbury residents still hoping to head off the proposed Johnson Farm housing development on Landham Road crowded into the Conservation Commission's Monday night meeting at Town Hall.
The controversial project, which would consist of 56 housing units, has already won preliminary approval from members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, who made it clear they were doing so reluctantly and only because they feared that if they didn't approve a smaller project, developer Robert Moss could appeal to the state and perhaps win approval for a much larger project involving 120 units.
"We have received numerious letters and emails, and we appreciate the interest in the subject," said Commission Chair John Sklenak, mentioning that many of the communications were "emotional" in nature, as opposed to containing factual information that could be used legally as a basis to approve or reject the project. Communities are not permitted to reject 40B projects without specific, verifiable reasons that relate to health and safety.
40B refers to the Massachusetts law passed in 1969 that allows developers more flexibility in bypassing local zoning laws if they set aside at least 25 percent of new housing units for low and moderate income residents at rates deemed affordable. The 56-unit development would include 14 affordable units.
The Commission voted to decline an offer from a neighbor who said that if the decision went against Johnson Farm, he would pay for any off-site mitigation that had also been offered by the developer. The Commission discussed whether accepting either offer could be interpreted as an inappropriate factor in a decision on Johnson Farm, and voted to take both offers off the table before any discussion was made or discussed.
"We are making our own decisions. We are not influenced by any other town officials," said Sklenak. "All we've had is one offer from one Selectman to support whatever decision we want to make, which I would consider impartial."
"Maybe it's me, but I'm just surprised that we're still here this evening discussing whether we are going to build this montrosity on a wetlands," said resident Brian Cain, who argued that more comprehensive environmental studies should be done before the project is considered.
The Commission will begin deliberations on the Johnson Farm matter at its next meeting, which is set for Sept. 10. Members declined a suggestion that they take part in a non-binding straw poll on which direction they are leaning.