WINCHESTER - Over the years, Winchester suffered through some high-density housing projects thanks to the state’s 40B law that allows developers to skirt certain zoning rules if a community has less than 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable. That issue for the town continues; however, this latest 40B project shouldn’t cause many headaches.

Mario Covino, owner of 87-89 Cross St. plans to create nine-unit affordable housing development through the state’s LIP (Local Initiative Partnership) program, also known as a “friendly 40B” (though this project probably doesn’t need the quotations around the word friendly, as the owner appears ready to work with the town).

His attorney, Paul Haverty, said using the LIP program affords a benefit to the town through a greater level of participation. The town needs to sign a letter of support before Covino can receive support from the Department of Housing and Community Development (who oversees affordable housing projects). This stands in stark contrast to most 40B projects where the town usually submits a letter to MassHousing in opposition to the project.

In order for all units to qualify as affordable, normally a developer would need to make 25 percent affordable (in this case, three out of the nine) to those making 80 percent of the Area Median income. Instead, this developer chose to make 20 percent affordable (or two of nine) to those making 50 percent of the AMI. This makes the units even more affordable (or to some, actually affordable).

All the units will contain three bedrooms and have two parking spaces.

When Haverty said his client sought feedback, he received mostly positive comments from a receptive Select Board. Member Michael Bettencourt did note how in most LIPs the DHCD expects the town to contribute in some way, and Haverty responded how it’s usually financial but doesn’t necessarily have to be (he added the financial contribution usually occurs with low-income projects and not LIPs).

The board especially appreciated Covino making two of the units affordable to those making 50 percent of the AMI, as opposed to the standard 80 percent.

Select Board member Rich Mucci applauded the project, but suggested a neighborhood meeting before getting too deep into the weeds. Town Planner Brian Szkeley agreed with the need for a meeting before the two sides (Select Board and developer) issue a joint statement to the DHCD.

Szkeley also noted the town could, as its contribution, pay for consultants or waive any building permit fees for the developer. He added, after a question about the possibility of a bedroom over the garage, the layout of the apartment would be reviewed and approved by the DHCD.

One question from the “audience,” in this case Planning Board Chair Diab Jerius, concerned the design plans showing nothing but townhouses. He wondered if the developer could get accessible units in there. He also shared concerns with the amount of asphalt and lack of greenery.

Covino assured him and the board these were merely concepts and there would be more landscaping involved.

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