Mashpee Planners Take A Hard Line Against Assisted Living Proposal

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By: Geoff Spillane
Published: 06/22/12

 If Wednesday evening’s Mashpee Planning Board meeting about a specialized assisted living facility was any indication of how the board will work with Mashpee Commons LP on future development projects, townspeople can expect a turbulent relationship that could possibly drive business away from town.

“The meeting was an embarrassment to Mashpee,” said Michael R. Richardson, chairman of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen, who was in the audience for the meeting.

The informal meeting was the first between the two parties since Douglas S. Storrs, vice president of Mashpee Commons LP, informed the planning board in February that his organization would pursue a master plan agreement directly with the Cape Cod Commission, rather than both the commission and the planning board at once. The new tack taken by Mashpee Commons would bypass Mashpee planners until it was time to bring individual buildings or projects before the planning board for a special permit.

Mr. Storrs was joined by Theodore Tye, managing director for Newton-based National Development Corporation, which specializes in mixed-use office, industrial, retail, multifamily, hotel, and senior housing projects.

Mr. Tye, a part-time Mashpee resident, presented preliminary plans for a proposed memory care center assisted living facility at the intersection of Donna’s Lane and Great Neck Road South, just south of the Mashpee rotary. The project would be built on land purchased from Mashpee Commons, yet would still comply with the covenants and architectural codes of the commons.

Apparently still smarting from a perceived slight by Mashpee Commons’ decision to work with the Cape Cod Commission for the master plan development, the planning board put Mr. Tye, Mr. Storrs, and their attorneys through the ringer for an hour and a half, taking a “what else is in it for the town?” approach during the discussion.

The meeting was an embarrassment to Mashpee.

                   Selectman Michael Richardson

The planning board members, notably Chairman Mary E. Waygan, Dennis Balzarini, and David Kooharian, acknowledged the benefits that an assisted living center would bring to the town. However, all three questioned whether the development could be permitted as a commercial center and whether the board should provide special permitting for building setbacks so that it could be in synch with the neighborhood, urban-center feel of Mashpee Commons.

At one point Ms. Waygan asked if she could send Mr. Tye information regarding the board’s green parks initiative, as she felt that the town was giving something in the form of permitting relief, but not getting anything in return.

“I don’t know what that is,” Mr. Tye responded.

“When we come into a town we usually get a bear hug, because we pay taxes and help the community. I am used to feeling welcome but feel as if we were caught in the middle of some history between the town and Mashpee Commons. We are not asking for favors. We would agree to mitigation with the Cape Cod Commission that would set aside some of the units as affordable and perhaps even providing open space to the town. But before I commit resources to moving forward with this project, I want to make sure we will be welcome here,” Mr. Tye said.

There was also a debate as to whether the planning board would be approving the entire next phase of Mashpee Commons development at once, or on a project-by-project piecemeal basis.

“To approve projects parcel by parcel when we are so close to having a master plan does not make sense. I do not support providing setback and other permitting reliefs for this project without knowing what else is going to be happening around it,” Ms. Waygan said.

Mr. Richardson said that he would like to invite Mr. Tye and Mr. Storrs to present the plans for the memory care center at an upcoming board of selectmen meeting to show the developers that there is strong support for the facility at the town government level.

“I don’t think the planning board embraced the opportunity to welcome a commercial venture to town that would provide jobs and a needed service to residents. All of the other towns on the Cape would welcome this venture. It does not attract heavy traffic and is neat, clean, and green. I am disappointed it was not a more fruitful meeting,” Mr. Richardson said.

Mr. Storrs, who at one point referred to a comment made by Mr. Balzarini as “annoying,” had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

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