FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are frequently asked questions about the Waterfield Street affordable housing proposal. Have a question you don't see here? Contact us and let us know.
WHAT WERE VOTERS ASKED TO VOTE ABOUT ON JUNE 22ND?
Winchester voters were asked to vote on the same question that Town Meeting members voted to approve in May, with the endorsement of the Select Board, Finance Committee, Planning Board, and Housing Partnership. A yes vote authorizes the Select Board land development agreement (LDA) and ground lease with developer Civico for redevelopment of the surface parking lot in town known as the Waterfield Lot, adjacent to the Winchester Center commuter rail station. A no vote would prevent the execution of the LDA.
HAS WINCHESTER ALREADY ENTERED INTO A LAND DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT WITH CIVICO?
The town has signed an LDA but it is subject to town meeting approval, which is not yet “operative” under the Town Charter.
HOW DOES TOWN MEETING’S VOTE BECOME OPERATIVE?
In the absence of any referendum petition and election, Town Meeting’s votes become operative after five business days have passed from the date of the vote. In the case of the Waterfield Lot Development, a petition was signed and submitted that stopped the vote from becoming operative and triggered a mandatory election.
There are now two ways that Town Meeting’s vote could become operative on June 22nd:
1) if 20% of registered voters vote and the majority of them vote yes, or,
2) if less than 20% of registered voters vote.
CAN THE SELECT BOARD AND THE PETITIONERS WORK OUT A COMPROMISE SO THAT WE DON’T NEED TO HAVE AN ELECTION?
No, under our town charter, because the petition was filed with and certified by the Town Clerk, the town must proceed with the election.
IF TOWN MEETING’S VOTE BECOMES OPERATIVE, DOES THE SELECT BOARD HAVE ANY ABILITY TO FURTHER NEGOTIATE THE TERMS OF THE LDA?
No, but the LDA says that the town and Civico will negotiate the final terms of a 99-year ground lease agreement, which will cover many of the same topics as the LDA but in more specific and detailed terms.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF TOWN MEETING’S VOTE DOES NOT BECOME OPERATIVE AND THE PROJECT IS STOPPED?
Under the terms of the LDA, the deposit will be returned to Civico and both parties will have no further obligation to each other under that agreement. Civico would remain the awarded bidder. When the Select Board voted to select Civico’s proposal and initiate negotiations in October 2020, the Board also voted that the Pennrose proposal was its second choice and “if it becomes necessary to engage in negotiations with an entity other than Civico, the Select Board will proceed to negotiate with Pennrose instead.” It is unknown whether Pennrose would be interested in negotiating with the town.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LDA AND THE GROUND LEASE?
The LDA functions as a Purchase and Sale Agreement between the Town and Civico. It sets out the process for Civico to do preliminary investigation on the site, do a title search at the Registry of Deeds, submit permit applications, and lists the major terms of the ground lease. The ground lease will become the final agreement with all the detailed language about developing, operating, and maintaining the project for a 99-year period. It will become effective when the Civico project starts construction. The 99-year ground lease arrangement is frequently used in the commercial real estate industry and for affordable housing developments so that the town can maintain long-term control over the property.
WHAT WERE THE VOTES ON THE DEVELOPMENT AT TOWN MEETING? WHO WAS IN FAVOR OF THE PROJECT AND WHO WAS AGAINST?
On the original motion on May 3, 2021, 118 town meeting members voted in favor and 46 against (110 votes were needed to pass). A motion for reconsideration was made on May 6, 2021 by town meeting member Paul Manganaro, and on May 10, 2021, 112 town meeting members voted against reconsideration and 56 town meeting members voted in favor of reconsideration.
The following town boards and committees voted in favor and spoke at Town Meeting:
The Select Board (SB at minute 15)
The Winchester Housing Partnership Board (John Suhrbier of the Housing Partnership Board; Marty Jones of the Housing Partnership Board)
The Finance Committee (Finance Committee at minute 21)
Winchester Town Meeting (May 3, 2021 and May 6, 2021 and May 10, 2021)
No town board or committee voted against the project. Select Board member Rich Mucci and Finance Committee member John Miller presented dissenting views at Town Meeting.
WAS THIS SPRING THE FIRST TIME TOWN MEETING HAD CONSIDERED THE WATERFIELD LOT FOR DEVELOPMENT?
No, Town Meeting has voted on aspects of the project before. In 2018 at Spring Town Meeting ⅔ of town meeting members authorized the Select Board to lease, sell, convey (etc.) the Waterfield lot, subject to the town’s acquiring a restriction requiring it to be used for affordable housing. In 2020 at Fall Town Meeting, ⅔ of town meeting members authorized he Select Board to lease the lot to Civico for a term of 99 or fewer years for the purpose of using the land in accordance with the July 1, 2020 RFP for affordable housing.
WERE THERE PUBLIC MEETINGS ON THIS PROJECT?
Yes, the Select Board and Planning Board discussed the project at several public meetings over the past 3 years. See Timeline.
WHY DOES THE TOWN WANT TO DEVELOP THE WATERFIELD LOT? WHAT ARE THE PROJECT GOALS?
Provide additional affordable housing in town
Increase housing diversity in town (currently 87% of housing is single family or duplex)
Add residential units near public transit
Increase the vitality of the center business district during evenings and weekends
Provide public parking and service access
Promote a fiscally feasible development that works with its surroundings and ‘reflects local design vernacular’
Extend commercial development along Waterfield Road
HOW MANY DEVELOPERS SUBMITTED PROPOSALS?
The Town retained a professional community planner, JM Goldson, to help with the RFQ and RFP process in accordance with best practices. 8 developers were pre-qualified during the RFQ process and 6 submitted proposals during the RFP process. 5 of the developers met minimum criteria, including Civico.
WHY DID THE TOWN CHOOSE CIVICO?
During the Select Board’s presentation to Town Meeting the following factors were listed as the reason for choosing Civico:
The highest number of affordable units
The lowest building height
The most public parking
WHY DID THE TOWN CHOOSE TO INCLUDE 66% AFFORDABLE HOUSING INSTEAD OF 25%? WASN’T 25% ALL WE NEEDED TO HAVE THE UNITS COUNT TOWARD OUR SHI INDEX?
Of the 5 developers who met the minimum eligibility criteria of the Town’s Request for Proposals, none offered a building with 25% affordable housing units. The affordability range was 38% to 66%. The town chose Civico’s plan because it met all of the town’s goals. The town wanted an attractive development on the site that included a mix of retail and rental housing, offered replacement public parking, had a focus on affordable housing to help meet state-mandated requirements and provided a wider range of affordable units than is currently available in Town and is needed by our residents.
The proposal that provided for 38% affordable housing was 20 feet taller and more dense than Civico’s proposal. It did not provide any public parking or commercial space and some aspects of the development’s proposed financing did not comply with state requirements.
HOW MUCH WILL THE TOWN RECEIVE UNDER THE LEASE WITH CIVICO?
The town will receive $1 million over the first 12 months and thereafter 10% of the net operating revenue annually. The Town will also receive 15% of the profits from any refinancing or sale of the building during the 99-year lease term.
The property will also pay real estate taxes. As with all properties in Town, the Assessors Department will establish a value for the property as part of the normal valuation process.
WILL THERE BE PUBLIC PARKING IF CIVICO DEVELOPS THE LOT?
Yes, the project provides 40 ground-level public parking spaces that will be accessible 24/7. The developer will pay for the construction of these parking spaces, and the operational plan for the development will incentivize maximum usage.
WHAT DOES “AFFORDABLE HOUSING” MEAN?
By state statute MGL Chapter 40B, cities and towns are encouraged to provide 10% of their total year-round housing units as deed-restricted Affordable Housing. Affordable Housing is housing that eligible low- and moderate-income residents can afford by paying no more than 30% of their annual household income. Winchester has 7,920 year-round housing units, per the 2010 US Census, of which 148 (or about 1.9%) are deed-restricted Affordable Housing units on the state’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI). As of December 2020, Winchester had 296 units that the State counted on the SHI, 3.74% of our housing units. In communities like Winchester, where less than 10% of housing units qualify as Affordable Housing, developers may override local zoning bylaws through a Comprehensive Permit for mixed-income housing development that has 25% of its residential units Affordable Housing units.
WILL THE WATERFIELD PROJECT HAVE AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
Yes. The project will have 40 affordable apartment units, about 66% of the total number of apartments. 20 units will have market rate rents. Because the project is an all rental building, all of the 60 apartments will be counted towards the 10% requirement under the 40B law. The apartments will be deed-restricted to ensure affordability for the 99-year term of the ground lease.
HAS CIVICO AGREED WITH THE TOWN ON ANY DETAILS OR REQUIREMENTS ABOUT THE AFFORDABLE APARTMENTS?
The LDA has basic terms on the types and numbers of affordable units and market rate units.
Affordable Market Rate
8 studios 4 studios
6 one-bedroom 12 one-bedroom
22 two-bedroom 2 two-bedroom
4 three-bedroom 2 three-bedroom
By law, the affordable apartments must be the same size and have comparable fixtures, appliances, etc. to the market rate apartments.
WHAT ARE THE RULES ABOUT HOW “AFFORDABLE” THESE UNITS WILL BE?
By law, income limits for households living in the affordable units are set each year by the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development based on the annual median family income (AMI) in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy Metro Region (north of the city). The Waterfield project will have apartments for a range of affordable levels, from 30% AMI to 80% AMI. For a family of three, this ranges from $32,650 to $90,950. The annual salary for a licensed practical nurse in the Boston area in 2020 was $60,400, for a chef it was $65,650. The income levels will change over time and each new tenant for an affordable apartment will have to provide evidence of their income in the apartment rental application. Once a resident moves in, their household is required to annually certify their income to assure compliance with the eligibility requirements. See chart below for more details.
WHAT DOES “SAFE HARBOR” MEAN AND WHAT EFFECT DOES THE PROPOSED PLAN HAVE ON WINCHESTER?
A community may claim “Safe Harbor” and thereby deny a developer a Comprehensive Permit under Chapter 40B if the municipality has a locally adopted and state approved Housing Production Plan (HPP) and is making measurable progress toward reaching the state goal of 10% Affordable Housing. Measurable progress means that the community is producing Affordable Housing units at an annual rate of 0.5% (1 year Safe Harbor) or 1% (2 year Safe Harbor) of its year-round housing units.
Winchester’s Housing Production Plan, adopted in 2018 by the Planning Board and the Select Board, has been certified by the state and the town has Safe Harbor until March 18, 2022 because of the approval of the River Street development in March 2020. The proposed Waterfield Lot development will give Winchester Safe Harbor for one additional year beginning with the date the development receives its local land use permits.
GIVEN THAT THE TERM OF THE GROUND LEASE WILL BE 99 YEARS, WHY DIDN’T THE SELECT BOARD AND CIVICO INCLUDE A 99-YEAR FINANCIAL MODEL AS PART OF THE LDA?
The Select Board followed the state-mandated public bidding process and issued a “Request for Proposals” to build and operate a mixed affordable housing/retail development on the Waterfield Lot. As requested by the Town, Civico provided a 20 year financial projection. It is typical for public agencies to require 15 - 20 year projections in housing development RFPs. State agencies that provide subsidies for affordable housing also require 20 year projections. Longer projections are difficult to rely on and can be distorted because of the changing dynamics of real estate over time and the mathematical effect of compounding. Rental income is tied to economic conditions and can increase or decrease depending on recessions or inflation. Similarly operating expenses trends can vary significantly over time. These are very difficult to predict over long time periods.
The Town has structured the Ground Lease to share in the profits of the development over time and will receive annual financial reports to be able to monitor the operations and profitability.
HOW MUCH WILL THE JUNE ELECTION COST THE TOWN?
The Town Clerk has estimated that it will cost the town approximately $30,000 to hold the election.
WHERE AND WHEN WILL THE ELECTION TAKE PLACE?
On June 22, 2021 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Winchester High School.
WHY IS THE ELECTION BEING HELD ONLY AT WINCHESTER HIGH SCHOOL?
The Town Clerk recommended having all precincts vote at Winchester High School due to the constraints of hiring enough poll workers in such a short timeframe. Having four polling locations
would double the number of poll workers needed from approximately 30 to 60, and increase the estimated cost of this special election by 30%.
WILL THE WATERFIELD DEVELOPMENT BE SUSTAINABLY DESIGNED?
Yes. The Request for Proposals required that the proposed building serve as an example of collaborative leadership by the developer and the Town to reduce carbon emissions and increase building resiliency and sustainability, goals defined in the Town of Winchester’s Climate Action Plan. Like two Passive House Certified buildings the Civico team is currently constructing, the Waterfield development will aim for Passive House Certification and will be on the leading edge of building sustainability with continuous airtight insulation, filtered fresh air ventilation, and solar panels powering all-electric systems.
WHAT ARE THE ACCESSIBILITY FEATURES IN THE BUILDING AND HOW MANY UNITS WILL BE FULLY ADA ACCESSIBLE?
The Waterfield development is an opportunity to build a welcoming place for the variety of people who call Winchester home. For Winchester residents who require accessible single-level living in close proximity to family, retail amenities, open space, and transit, a minimum of 5% of the apartments will be built to strict accessibility standards (lower counters, wider doors, etc). The building will feature covered accessible parking, an elevator serving all parking decks and residential levels, adjacency to the new and accessible commuter rail station, and universal design principals to allow for aging-in-place.
IF THE WATERFIELD DEVELOPMENT BRINGS IN ADDITIONAL STUDENTS, IS THERE CAPACITY?
Yes. The Town has always been able to educate our children and it will continue to do so. Any development has the potential to bring in new students and if the Town were to sell the lot to a developer without restrictions, then we would have at least as many or more kids in the schools.
Some residents have asked about the impact on our school budget. The 2020 per pupil spending of $15,270 is not 100% paid by the Town. Other revenue including $2,055/per pupil in Ch. 70, and additional amounts from federal funding and local donations help cover our costs. Chapter 70 is based on enrollment, so added pupils will increase the annual Chapter 70 amount that the Town receives. More info on education funding is at the state Dept of Education site, https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/ More information on the town’s budget is at the town website, under Town Manager/Financial, https://www.winchester.us/215/Town-Manager.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING THE BUILDING AND GROUNDS?
The Developer will be responsible for the property and the building with the Town’s oversight. Under Exhibit C, section 9 of the Civico LDA, Civico “shall be solely responsible for using diligently maintaining, repairing, and replacing the Property and each and every part thereof comprising the Project including, without limitation, all buildings, facilities, structures, landscaping, and other improvements thereon, and all systems and utilities serving or located on the Property, in good repair and condition and in compliance with Applicable Laws, whether ordinary or extraordinary, structural, relating to the systems or utilities serving the Property or the Project, or capital in nature including without limitation any necessary capital repairs, replacements, and improvements.”
The condition when the lease ends and Civico turns the building over to the Town is also mentioned in section 9, stating, “The Ground Lease shall contain customary terms and provisions relating to the surrender condition of the Property, requiring that the Developer vacate and surrender the Property in a condition consistent with its maintenance, repair, and replacement obligations pursuant to this Section 9.a.” Additional details regarding maintenance and repair will be negotiated in more detail in the final Ground Lease.