In its Thursday meeting, the North Reading ZBA voted to file for Safe Harbor with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) following receipt of new information showing North Reading likely meets the requirement of General Land Area Minimum (GLAM) needed for the town to decline a 40B application. North Reading Community Planner Danielle McKnight reviewed new information showing a full counting of group homes based on information from the state. This list, plus other additions legally allowed, showed the GLAM calculated at 1.55% of allowable acres in North Reading; the limit to invoke Safe Harbor is 1.5%.
Defend Ipswich River Communities' Attorney Dan Hill requested the detailed review of this data in the Aug. 8 meeting, where Hill suggested that the town might meet the 1.5% requirement following a complete review of group homes and other properties. Under these new calculations, the number of housing units, previously counted as 9.6% of total North Reading units, may be as high as 10.36%, allowing another avenue for safe harbor.
On Friday, Aug. 23, North Reading Town Counsel will file a formal letter with the DHCD to assert Safe Harbor, allowing the ZBA to deny the project later. Applicant Nick Yebba has 15 days to appeal the designation to the DHCD, which then has 30 days to uphold or deny the Safe Harbor designation. Yebba's attorney asked for an informal 15-day extension of the hearing instead of the Safe Harbor claim, a request declined by the ZBA.
The hearing was continued until Nov. 14, 2019, by which time there should be more information on the DHCD decision on safe harbor.