If a neighborhood group has anything to do with it, AvalonBay Communities' proposed affordable housing development at Recreation Park Drive in Hingham will disappear as quickly as it was introduced.
The developer is still at the early stages of the process to build a 180-unit apartment complex on the 18.5 acres near the Derby Street Shoppes, a project that has already received the state’s approval for the site plans. It would be a project under the state's affordable housing law, known as 40B.
Yet despite the fact that the developer has yet to even file any concrete plans to the town, neighbors are already rallying against it.
Citing traffic concerns, the stress on the school system, and stress on the water system, the Gardner Street's Farms Hills Civic Society says that to build a development of this size and nature in the area would be unwise.
“The traffic from this development located between the Derby Shops and the intersection of Derby, Whiting and Gardner Streets would create tremendous problems in an already heavily congested area,” said Judy Kelley, a member of the society.
It’s an area that has seen its fair share of problems and difficulties.
According to town officials, the Gardner Street/Derby Street/Whiting Street intersection currently has the highest crash rate in town.
Additionally, the Route 3/Derby Street interchange (Exit 15) also ranks as one of the most cumbersome intersections in Hingham.
Traffic volumes in the area are high – they have grown by 12 percent since 1997, which at the time found the stop sign controlled intersections to operate at a level of service “F”.
The developer was not immediately available for comment.
“If Avalon's plans include a light to control traffic and if it is feasible to do so, then local drivers would contend with 4 lights in a very short distance,” Kelley said. Also, “the Town of Hingham has stated it has satisfied the 40B requirement with the Avalon Shipyard Apartments, Linden Ponds and many other projects throughout town.”
Town officials are still waiting to formulate an opinion, as neither the Zoning Board of Appeals nor the Planning Board had any comment on the proposed development at this time.
However in a letter to the Massachusetts Housing Agency, who requests town input on potential 40B developments prior to issuing a site approval, selectmen had numerous concerns that will need to be addressed prior to the public hearings.
In addition to traffic concerns, the poor current condition of Recreation Park Drive, which is a private way, will most likely need to be addressed.
Additionally, “the residential neighborhood to the east of the site will experience noise and visual impacts from the project, as the site is currently completely undeveloped and provides a significant open space buffer between the neighborhood and industrial uses at the end of Recreation Park Drive,” the letter states.
The town also acknowledged in the letter that despite the purchase of property on Beal Street for renovation into affordable housing, the six Fort Hills veterans homes created for similar purpose, and 60 units of affordable housing at the Lincoln School Apartments, “this, however, does not even approach meeting the demand,” the letter said.
Currently, Avalon is conducting traffic studies in the area to establish a basis for concern in order to present mitigations to selectmen in the filing of the development.
Once the developer files the project scope, traffic study, and engineering plans to the town, officials will have 30 days to issue a public hearing. The project must also receive an approval or rejection within 180 days of the filing, Zoning Administrator Sue Eddy said.
In the meantime, neighborhood opposition only seems like it’s growing.
“In the past two weeks, I’ve had three phone calls about it,” Eddy said. “I’ve heard there is opposition.”
Town officials estimate that the project will most likely be filed by the end of the month.