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Scituate officials say construction boom, population growth won't hamper town services

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 14, 2014 03:25 PM

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A surge in Scituate construction may mean more work for building inspectors, but officials said a potentially larger population won't mean a decrease in town services.

According to Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer Neil Duggan, 170 projects are either under construction or will be ready to start construction by the spring, the most of any community on the Massachusetts coast.

“It’s accumulated over the years, starting with the recession,” Duggan told selectmen at a meeting on Jan. 7 during a discussion of staffing increases. “A lot of projects were permitted and several 40B projects [were planned]. With the improving economy, they are now under way.”

Named after the chapter of state law, 40B projects promise a percentage of homes within the development to be sold or rented at “affordable” rates, giving developers latitude to avoid local zoning ordinances.

The present list includes 68 units at 40B project Stockbridge Road, plus another 30 under way at the Walden Woods development. Additionally, some units from longstanding 40B projects are just finishing up now, town officials said.

There has also been a trend of older couples building secondary homes, said Selectman John Danehey. Other older residents have begun construction to convert summer cottages into primary residences.

“That’s due to the proximity to the ocean, its proximity to Boston, and based on the surrounding communities, it tends to be the most affordable given what it has to offer,” Danehey said in a phone interview.

Yet because construction within the affordable housing developments is focused on smaller units, and construction at the coast is geared toward older couples, Danehey doesn’t see a potential population boom affecting schools.

While increased population may put heavier demands on utilities and public safety, the tax revenue generated by new residences will pay for those increases, Danehey said.

“It will pretty much be a balance,” Danehey said.

Another proposed development at the Proving Grounds; which would build 97 three-to four-bedroom homes at a site off Hatherly Road; could strain school services more than present developments, as the units are big enough to accommodate families.

Yet the proposal is still in the preliminary stages, Danehey said.

For now, the only impact of increased development will be on inspectional services. Officials have recommended a $70,000 increase in the budget for fiscal 2015 to help add staff and alleviate the burden.

“With several hundred units coming online, it’s something we need if we want to do the job properly,” Duggan said.

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