Rochester development given final OK to begin planning process

Jan 23, 2019

ROCHESTER — The financial impact that a 208-unit apartment complex proposed for Rochester Crossing will have on town services will be studied after a “yes” from the Planning Board on Tuesday.

Steen Realty and Development Corp., a Dartmouth-based developer, will conduct the study, which is designed to calculate how much the project could increase Rochester’s expenses, including the cost of educating additional students. The study kicks off a process under a state law known as “Chapter 40R.”

It is the first development in town seeking a 40R “smart growth overlay district” from the town, which aims to foster cooperation between towns and developers when it comes to affordable housing projects. The special zoning district will require two-thirds approval at Town Meeting in the spring.

In establishing the special zoning district, the town stands to receive more than $1 million in incentives from the state — which could include support to deal with the influx of students in the area.

Steen representatives outlined their proposal at a joint meeting of Selectmen and the Planning Board on Jan. 3. There, officials and residents discussed the potential impact on the town, but delayed a decision.

Steen’s development, at the old R.F. Morse Nursery site now dubbed Rochester Crossing, would consist of four separate four-story buildings containing a total of 160 two-bedroom units, 24 one-bedroom units and 24 three-bedroom units. One quarter of the apartments would be rented at rates deemed “affordable” by the state. The remainder would be rented at market rates.

According to Planning Board Chair Arnold Johnson, the board’s approval would allow Steen to move forward in the permitting process.

The developer will approach the state to begin the permitting process while the town works on drafting a bylaw to create a special zoning district in Rochester, which requires Town Meeting approval. If Town Meeting approves the district, the Planning Board would have responsibility for permitting and oversight of any construction plans within that district.