Concord town line sign Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Select Board questions impact of proposed West Concord apartments

By Celeste Katz Marston
July 27, 2023

The developers of a proposed apartment complex told the Select Board Monday that the project would enhance Concord’s housing stock, bring in tax revenue, and advance its environmental goals. 

But the board had a slew of questions about the impact on town services, traffic, and schools. 

West Concord’s NOVO Riverside Commons would place two five-story apartment buildings on 10 acres of land on Baker Avenue. 

The developer, private equity group Taurus Investments LLC, has applied to MassHousing for eligibility under Chapter 40B, the state statute that lets local zoning boards green-light housing under “flexible rules” if a percentage of units are set aside for low- or moderate-income tenants.     

With two buildings separated by a pond, 292 Baker would have 118 apartments, while 294 Baker would have 83 apartments. 

In total, 51 units would be designated affordable — 19 one bedrooms, 26 two bedrooms, and six three bedrooms. 

Responding to a question from Board Clerk Mary Hartman, representatives of the developer said the remainder of the apartments would go for market rate — with rents ranging from about $2000 per month for a one bedroom to $4,700 for three bedrooms. 

Speaking on behalf of the proposal team, attorney Daniel Holmes said the new apartments wouldn’t be located in an area currently occupied by single family homes and would bring much-needed housing to an underutilized swath of land, potentially appealing to “plenty of people in this town — youngsters coming home, oldsters like myself who might sell a house and be looking for a place to live that doesn’t cost $1.5 million.”

Taurus bought the Baker Avenue parcel in 2020. Its senior vice president of development, Allen Peacock, talked up the sustainable nature of the development, which would not use fossil fuels for heating or cooling. He said Taurus’ NOVO properties, such as those in the Orlando, Florida and Austin, Texas areas, use geothermal and solar energy and feature electric vehicle charging stations — what he termed “cutting-edge conservation.” 

Land Planner Kevin Hurley, also speaking for the developers, added that the proposal includes conveying to the town a parcel of conservation land that fronts on the Assabet River. 

“I’m thinking about [the] load on resources that we’re going to have to deal with,” said Board Chair Henry Dane, who questioned, among other things, how many children the development might add to the public education system. “There’s a cost that’s incurred by the town for any housing,” he said, “whether it be sewer improvement or schools.”

Stephanie Kiefer, a land use lawyer who also spoke for the developers, said research and her own experience has shown that the number of students brought into local schools by this type of housing complex “tends to always be less than what the community thinks it will be.” 

In response to questions about how much tax revenue Riverside Commons would afford the town, real estate consultant Brett Pelletier said that with a preliminary estimate of about $100 million to develop the property, at current tax rates, that would come out to about $1.3 million annually.  

Although the proposed Riverside Commons is a short walk from the West Concord MBTA station, potentially appealing to rail commuters, the Select Board expressed concerns about the strain it could put on local traffic in the area.  

The proposal for 292 Baker calls for 118 apartments and two levels of “basement podium” parking with 121 spotsl. Next door, 294 Baker would have 83 apartments and one garage level with 40 spots. There would also be 143 surface parking spaces. For the entire development, that all comes out to about 1.5 spots per unit.

While proximity to the station may be an advantage of the site, “In that general area, it’s already quite congested when the train pulls into the station,” Hartman said. “Three hundred cars is a lot of cars.” 

Hurley replied that the developers had hired a traffic consulting firm to analyze the impact on the area, and that its report would be included in their application.   

Hartman, a West Concord resident, said after the meeting that she has lingering concerns about the plan: “As a Select Board member, I feel that the town needs housing,” she said. “As an abutter, I feel that there are some real issues with traffic. That would be my bottom line.”

Hurley said the developers are considering having a public information meeting for public officials and residents for people to learn more about the site in early September.