40B LIP Negotiations End Without Agreement
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The LIP (Local Initiative Project) negotiations between the Board of Selectmen and SLV, the applicant for an apartment complex at Shingle Hill, have ended without an agreement. At the Board’s public negotiation session on Tuesday, April 6, Mr. Engler of SLV concluded that it was no longer in his best interest to continue the negotiations.
The 40B project will no longer advance as a LIP. If the developer wishes to pursue the project, he will need to seek a project eligibility letter through the state rather than as a LIP. This conventional approach requires a separate set of procedures, including a new filing with the state and a public comment period before issuing a project eligibility letter. Once this letter is issued the applicant applies for a Comprehensive Permit before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The negotiations faltered over how much autonomy the ZBA should have. The developer proposed 157 units. For Manchester, this is a “large project” under the rules governing 40B projects (over 6% of a town’s year-round housing units.) Large projects by law are afforded “safe harbor” meaning that the ZBA’s decision is final with no appeal to the state’s Housing Appeals Committee.
This was a critical aspect of the Selectmen’s willingness to negotiate a LIP. The developer was asked in the first negotiation session if he applied for a high unit count with the expectation of reducing the number. He stated no, he was committed to the 157 units knowing that this constituted a large project. The Selectmen started down the path of negotiations with this same understanding.
Six months later a lot has transpired. As the developer noted, the political landscape of the community has come into much sharper focus, a nod to the considerable work of the Citizen’s Initiative for Manchester’s Affordable Housing. The developer desired assurance that the ZBA would not exercise the safe harbor option. But this is not an assurance the Selectmen could legally provide given the autonomy of the ZBA.
The effort by the Selectmen would have meant retaining local control; in the end the developer concluded this was not something he was willing to accept.