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Milton wind turbine, affordable housing, and traffic projects await next steps

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  January 8, 2013 02:04 PM

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Three major Milton projects may move forward soon, but each awaits critical green lights before construction can begin.

The three stalled projects are a wind turbine could save the town $800,000 in energy costs; a 300-unit housing development could fulfill much of the town’s state affordable- housing requirement; and an East Milton Square project to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.

The embattled $6.2 million wind turbine project on town land near Granite Links Golf Course has undergone a legal challenge from the course’s parent company, Quarry Hills Associates, for two years.

While the legal battle has gone well for the town thus far, both sides await an arbitrator's final decision regarding the company’s lease agreement with the town, according to Milton Planning Director William Clark.

A draft decision by the arbitrator stated that the town could build the turbine, but could not operate it during hours the golf course is in operation, Clark said Tuesday. That would mean the turbine couldn't be in operation for 70 percent of the time, he said.

“I’m anxiously awaiting the arbiter’s decision,” Clark said. “I’m hoping he understands the ramifications of not allowing us to run that other time.”

Representatives from Quarry Hills did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday. In legal documents filed in Norfolk Superior Court in 2011, the company stated that the more than 400-foot-tall turbine would interfere with its 27-hole golf operation, destroying the quiet and beautiful views of the Blue Hills, and therefore violate a lease agreement with the town.

As part of the lease agreement, Quarry Hills agreed to pay $13 million to cap the old Milton landfill there.

Milton residents have been supportive of the project, approving a number of measures at Town Meetings to allow the project to take place, according to Clark.

The decision from the arbiter could arrive any day, Clark said Tuesday.

Clark expects the reception won't be as warm for a prospective 300-unit apartment complex off of Brush Hill Road. The project, to be proposed under the state's 40B affordable housing law, would potentially help the town move closer to a state requirement that 10 percent of housing stock be affordable to residents at or below 80 percent of the area's median income.

That number is $45,000 for individuals, $52,000 for couples and $62,000 for a family of four, according to Clark. Only 4.7 percent of Milton’s housing meets the state’s definition, he said.

Under 40B, if a town doesn't meet the 10 percent threshhold, developers can override town zoning bylaws to create housing, Clark said.

The project is now awaiting approval from the state before a formal application can be submitted to the town, Clark said.

If that happens, residents will likely step forward with traffic concerns, and part of the project would have to include traffic mitigation, Clark said.

The project would be a large one for Milton, which usually only sees the construction of two to five new houses per year, Clark said. However, he also said that one large project that would bring affordable units to town could have advantages over several smaller projects.

The third project, a traffic improvement plan for East Milton Square, needs money to get started, according to Clark.

The town plans to place a warrant article for $300,000 to $400,000 for the design and engineering of the traffic plan, Clark said. The town has already received a $1 million federal grant for the project, which should cover the construction phase, he said.

The construction, which would include increasing parking and improving traffic and pedestrian safety, would take place over a single construction season, according to Clark.

“It is something that the businesses in the square feel that they need,” Clark said. “We have a lot of people making the comment that they don’t like going down there because they have a hard time finding a parking spot.”

The project would be contingent upon Town Meeting's approval of the money for the design phase.

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