LENOX – A mixed income rental housing development on Brushwood Farm is on the move and has received early enthusiastic support from several city boards and committees, including the Select Board.
The revised version of the 36 Pittsfield Road site plan was presented to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Committee on Monday and to the Planning Committee on Tuesday, which unanimously approved the plan. It was originally unveiled in June by developer Pennrose LLC’s Boston regional office.
The development, if approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals at an expected public hearing next month, would occupy 13 acres of the 68 acre property owned by the Hashim family. Pennrose has an option to buy and sell the land, with final purchase subject to approval from the ZBA.
The total project cost is currently nearly $ 30 million, subject to an upward revision and excluding the land purchase, Pennrose developer Rebecca Schofield told The Eagle. The total includes construction, design, financing, legal fees, approval and all other costs.
Rents for the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units would range from around $ 800 to $ 2,500 according to current forecasts, subject to ongoing market research, she said.
The Pennrose plan provides for Massachusetts Chapter 40B development, said Charlie Adams, Pennrose regional vice president. State law allows local authorities to expedite and approve mixed-income housing developments under flexible rules when at least 20 to 25 percent of units have long-term affordability restrictions.
The proposal is in line with the city’s housing plan, which aims to increase affordable housing to 10 percent of total home ownership in line with government guidelines. Brushwood Farm Housing, the working title of the project, also fits into this year’s Lenox master plan.
Pennrose has requested a review and preliminary approval from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, Schofield told city planners. The company will seek government funding for the tax-financed development.
“That’s a big part of how this project is possible,” she said.
The development – it is served by a nearly half a mile long access road – would have ample urban sewage and water resources and is also supported by Lenox police and fire chiefs, according to civil engineer Steven Mack of Foresight Land Services in Pittsfield.
The development would be sustainable, fully electric with possible solar panels, said Schofield.
“I think it’s a nice development”, said the chairman of the planning committee Pam Kueber and named the buildings, the division and “the way the houses are embedded in their surroundings. Everything looks very high quality. ”Other board members were also enthusiastic.
“It absolutely fulfills a need, it looks like a tremendous opportunity, and we should give them strong approval that we think this has a lot to offer the city in many ways,” said Kate McNulty, longtime board member -Vaughan, who is also a member of the Affordable Housing Trust Committee. She cited “very low income levels” at Lenox that make it difficult for local employees to find affordable housing.
Charlene Rosen, member of the Affordable Housing Committee, also praised the developer’s attention to environmental and natural resource issues.
The preparation of a letter of support from the Trust Committee for Affordable Housing was approved 5-0 with two abstentions.
All 65 homes proposed for the site would be affordable or workforce housing, stressed Adams. “Fifty of the units would be classified as low-income housing for renters with up to 60 percent of the median income in the area,” as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Thirteen of these apartments are reserved for applicants with 30 percent of the median income.
According to current HUD calculations, the median income for a four-person household in Lenox, based on the Pittsfield metropolitan area, is 85,000 US dollars.
Fifteen apartments would go to applicants with 60 to 120 percent of the median income in the region. The plan provides for 95 parking spaces. A traffic study is still pending.
Adams stated that 75 percent of Lenox residents would be eligible for housing in the proposed development based on income. The apartments would be awarded to applicants on the basis of an advertised 60-day lottery, he noted.
Subject to government approval, up to 70 percent of the affordable units – 35 apartments – could go to eligible, income-qualified Lenox residents, people working in the city, or people with students enrolled in public schools in the first year of application Period.
Much of the units are two-bedroom apartments; the rest is a mix of one and three bedroom configurations. There would be a clubhouse-style community building, similar to the Pennrose Village at Nauset Green project in Eastham, Cape Cod that opened earlier last year, as well as picnic tables and a playground.
Adams praised the “beauty of this place from a historical point of view. We are working hard to keep the site alive for the natural environment. “
He also cited the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority’s bus stop on site and its proximity to the Lenox Commons mixed-use construction project, which includes a coffee shop, medical and other professional offices, and a variety of retail outlets.
Adams described major environmental challenges: the hillside location, which entails a “major change in grade,” a convenient access road, the potential for the removal of rocky outcrops, and compliance with the Scenic Mountain Act, which applies to altitudes of 1,400 feet or higher.
“This is the first step in a long process,” confirmed Adams. “We are now at the start to obtain approval and funding for the construction project.” In addition to government loans, financial support for the city is being sought through the community conservation committee, he said.
If the money comes in from the state and the city in 2023 at the earliest, 14 to 16 months of construction would follow, with possible completion in 2025, Adams predicted.