East Street project at impasse

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The 193-unit development at 21 East St. remains unoccupied as project heads seek permits that will allow new tenants to move in. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Thirty three people have signed leases for the new development at 21 East St., but for weeks have been awaiting word on whether they can move in.

The project was discussed during an intense 90-minute session of the Planning Board on whether or not to grant a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for the 193-unit mixed-use development. The TCO would be for two of the three buildings on the site, and David Andronico of Jones Street Residential—the project’s developer—said it was crucial tenants be able to move in to secure funding to complete it.

We’ll still be incentivised to finish this project,” said Andronico at the June 17 meeting. “The success of this development and Jones Street rely on Building B (the one building not covered by the TCO).”

Andronico added that the final building is nearly done, with only “cabinets, carpet, and paint” remaining. He said that most of the work to be completed is interior.

We can’t advance the project without this (the TCO),” he said. “This is not the way we wanted this to go. Without partial approval, we’re not sure how we take the next step forward.”

The site is currently on its third owner. Jones Street Residential became the owner in 2018.

Flooding of abutters a critical concern

There were a number of issues raised, both by the Planning Board and abutters to the development. Flooding was the top concern, as the nearby 10-Mile River overflows frequently. The town is pursuing federal funds to conduct a dredging, but the project will likely cost millions. Andronico said there have been attempts to plant bio-retention areas to absorb the water, but that each time, flooding or heavy rains have wiped out the seedlings.

What needs to happen is we (the town) need to complete the dredging project for the 10-Mile River” he said. “Our condition is the same as residents. It was never our intention to stabilize that river, the only thing that can is dredging it.”

Eric Las, a special project engineer for the firm of Beal and Thomas attended the meeting remotely. He spoke on the flooding, saying the developer has measures that can be used to protect the bio-retention plantings. He said the town’s dredging project was unrelated to the mixed-use development and one should not be contingent on the other.

They don’t have a plan for how they plan to maintain these areas, and this is important,” said Las. “They’re not providing that treatment right now.”

Residents in the audience offered impassioned commentary on the flooding. Katherine Doherty of Holbrook Avenue—which abuts the project—said that flooding into her basement had severely damaged the home, knocking out heat and hot water and leaving only the electricity intact. Many said that the development was responsible, though Andronico claimed it was the constant flooding from the river. Doherty asked the board to do something to protect the residents impacted by this.

We didn’t ask for any of this,” she said. “I don’t understand it, I don’t understand how you could allow this to happen. Our quality of life is gone.”

Heather Mardarosian, also of Holbrook Avenue, said that some abutters have lived there for decades, even building their own homes. She said everyone had been impacted, whether it was home damage or health issues from the standing water.

Take care of your responsibilities and clean up your mess,” she said to the developer. “It’s reached such a level of disregard for the people abutting. You’ve shown them such disrespect and disregard.”

Potential tenants also spoke their minds. Matthew Gregory moved to North Attleborough with his partner from Boston and said they fell in love with the town. The were supposed to move in in May, but this was pushed to June and now they are waiting to see what happens.

I know that I’m not a tenant, I’m not a member of this town but that’s my goal,” he said.

Planning Board points out lack of communication

Board Chair Marie Clarner asked why the town had never been contacted about the issues the project faced or been informed of changes to the plan. She said that Jones Street could have arranged a Zoom meeting or e-mailed the Town Planner, but this had never been done. Andronico claimed he had been in touch with the planning office several times.

You’ve asked for a TCO with work not being completed,” said Clarner. “I see nothing about communication of issues you ran into.”

Clarner added that when the project received its permits, there was no mention of a tie-in to the 10-Mile River. She said that while the town has seen some turnover with its Town Planner, there were staff who could have been contacted.

A meeting was held this week with Town Counsel on the next steps to take, such as if the TCO can be granted for just those who have signed leases. The next meeting is July 1, but Clarner said an emergency virtual meeting may be held sooner than that.

You knew, any changes to be made you needed to contact us,” said Clarner. “The town is not responsible for your leases.”