Rejected affordable housing proposal spurs protest

by Tom Nash on October 12, 2010

Somerville community activists plan on showing City Hall what they think of officials rejecting a recent proposal for affordable housing by bringing sleeping bags and the stories of the homeless to its steps. 

The proposed housing, located at 162 Highland Ave. and owned by substance abuse treatment nonprofit CASPAR, would have contained six apartment units for families escaping homelessness. While the project did not need a variance to be built, any development in the city of more than three units requires approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Somerville Community Corporation organizer Mary Regan said members of the Board of Aldermen who spoke against the project are to blame for the ZBA not allowing it to go forward.

“We want to let the Board of Aldermen know that this kind of decision is not representative of the will of the people of Somerville,” Regan said. “There was overwhelming support for this project.”

Aldermen Sean O’Donovan, Bruce Desmond and Tom Taylor spoke against the project’s proposed size in August, with Taylor noting residents had expressed concerns about the project’s parking and crowding impact on the area at neighborhood meetings. 

 “I am not against the need and concept of this project,” Taylor said in a statement to the Planning Board. “It is an opportunity to address the problem of homelessness in a very real way. The real issue is overcrowding and safety here.”   

After receiving conditional approval from the Planning Board, the ZBA  rejected the plan by a 3-2 vote at a Sept. 15 meeting, with members Orsola Susan Fontano and Richard Rossetti citing similar size concerns. Four votes were required for approval.

 The rally, organized by SCC And the Somerville Homeless Coalition, is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14, just before the Board of Aldermen meeting.   


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