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Belmont developer may abandon Cushing Village proposal, won't rule out pursuing affordable housing instead

Posted by Evan Allen  July 11, 2012 03:21 PM

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The Cushing Village development proposal has hit a wall after the Belmont Planning Board said on Tuesday night that it likely won’t grant a special permit for a fourth story to be added to a building.

Developer Chris Starr said he may withdraw his application for the project, according to Starr and Planning Board Chair Sami Baghdady.

Cushing Village, first proposed in 2008, would bring a mix of apartment complexes and retail space to Common Street between Trapelo Road and Belmont Street.

The project has faced persistent opposition from residents concerned that it is too large, and would be out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.

Tuesday night’s setback is the latest in a long string of problems that have plagued the proposal, including a spat between Starr and the town over a parking garage that stalled progress for more than a year.

“We’re all extremely disappointed that the Planning Board was unable to kind of meet us in the middle,” said Starr. “We’re going to, over the next few weeks, gonna be reviewing our various options.”

Starr said he will have a decision to the Board within the month.

“All we are trying to do as a board is what is best for Belmont and best for Cushing Square," said Sami Baghdady, chair of the Planning Board. "What is best for Belmont and best for Cushing Square is reasonable and proper-sized and scaled development."

Baghdady said he hopes that the project continues. The Planning Board, he said, has been more than reasonable, and the contested fourth story would only have added six more apartment units to the development.

"It seems to me to be an unreasonable reaction," he said.

Starr said that while only six apartments are lost, they would have been penthouse-level apartments and would have brought in the revenue of 12 regular units.

Starr said that if he pulls his application, he is not ruling out pursuing affordable housing on the site.

“We’re not going away. My family is committed to owning the site long term,” he said. “We have been approached by some major national 40B [affordable housing] developers. Up until this point, we have turned those proposals away.”

Starr said he could not comment on what he would do in the future, but said that he is committed to equality and that Belmont should not be “a gated community that should be reserved for the privileged few.”

Baghdady said that the Planning Board has adjourned for the summer, and that the public hearing on Cushing Village will continue on Sept. 11 if the project has not been withdrawn.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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