Selectmen: Hancock Village Studies Deserve ‘Rigorous Scrutiny’
In email to neighbors, two selectmen cite "concerns" about recent analysis.
Two Brookline selectmen have joined a growing number of town officials and neighbors in questioning a recent fiscal impact study commissioned by the developer behind a proposed housing project at Hancock Village.
In an email sent to neighbors this morning, selectmen Nancy Daly and Ken Goldstein wrote that they “agree that more rigorous scrutiny needs to be applied to the economic analysis” and said they share neighbors’ “concern that public costs will equal or outweigh any tax revenue from the expansion.”
The email comes more than two months after the developer behind the project, Chestnut Hill Realty, released a new proposal that it says would reduce the development’s economic impact on the town by restricting many of the new units to residents who are over the age of 55 and less likely to have school-age children. Neighbors and town staff have raised doubts about the fiscal impact studies cited by the developer.
The plan calls for 172 one-bedroom homes and 48 two-bedroom homes scattered around the Brookline side of the property, as well as 260 one- and two-bedroom units in a larger age-restricted building. A pair of fiscal impact studies have suggested the project could eventually bring in $374,000 to $514,000 in new taxes for the town each year after accounting for the cost of providing town services for the new residents, which could include 24 to 33 new school-age children.
Chestnut Hill Realty changed its proposal to include the age-restricted housing after a first round of studies found that earlier plans could have cost taxpayers $511,000 to 763,000 a year, largely because of the cost of accommodating 88 to 118 new children in the schools. Representatives for the developer say the 260 age-restricted units included in the new proposal are unlikely to draw any new children at all.
But the town’s chief planner, Jeff Levine, has said the addition of any new students would come at a high cost to the town. So far, he said, neither study has looked at the cost of building new classroom space to accommodate the 24 to 33 children the project is expected to bring into Brookline’s already overburdened school system.
Brookline’s chief lawyer has also raised some doubts about whether any age restriction on housing costs could be made permanent, raising the possibility that the developer could eventually open its senior housing units up to families with school-age children.
In this morning’s email, Goldstein and Daly wrote that the town can only do so much to restrict development on the site and urged neighbors to work with the developer to reach a compromise.
“We recognize that this is private property and the tools available to stop or limit the expansion are imperfect,” they said. “In our judgment, productive discussion between community representatives and the developer remains the most likely strategy to an expansion we can tolerate.”
Below is the complete text of the letter:
Dear Hancock Village Neighbors,
At the last public meeting of the Hancock Village Committee, we heard a number of important criticisms, particularly concerning the economic analysis of the project Chestnut Hill Realty is proposing. We agree that more rigorous scrutiny needs to be applied to the economic analysis. We do encourage residents to review the work that was conducted to date by Town staff, and note that, even with the senior housing component, Town staff does not agree that the project has a positive fiscal impact.
Again, we apologize for using the Community Room at Putterham Library which was clearly inadequate for the size of the crowd. Future meetings will either be at the Baker School or Town Hall where we will have more room.
In closing, we'd like to reiterate that neither we nor any official of the Town of Brookline has any desire to see the overdevelopment of Hancock Village. We are concerned about the impacts on Baker School, traffic in the area, and the general quality of life in the neighborhood. We share your concern that public costs will equal or outweigh any tax revenue from the expansion. However, we recognize that this is private property and the tools available to stop or limit the expansion are imperfect. In our judgment, productive discussion between community representatives and the developer remains the most likely strategy to an expansion we can tolerate.
Best wishes for the New Year
Town of Brookline