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Sunderland housing project faces more hurdles

— Although the town was ordered to grant a comprehensive permit to Sugarbush Meadows LLC, the would-be developer has a few more hurdles to jump before the town sees a 150-apartment affordable housing project on Plumtree Road.

In January, the state’s high court ruled the developer may build five three-story buildings on 67 acres off Route 116. The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the 2008 decision by the Housing Appeals Court ordering the Zoning Board of Appeals to give the developer a permit it had denied. The decision ended a six-year court battle between the town and developer Scott Nielsen.

The comprehensive permit, however, only includes permits for zoning and the local wetlands bylaw. If Sugarbush Meadows builds exactly what was proposed six years ago, the development still needs five separate state permits or approvals, the town attorney, Jason Talerman, told the Select and Zoning boards this week.

The permits deal with state wetlands, water supply well, waste water disposal, and access to a state highway. It also needs approval from Mass. Housing, a not-for-profit public agency that uses bonds to provide financing for developers of affordable housing.

The picture gets murkier considering the property changed hands in the summer.

According to the Registry of Deeds, on July 16, Nielsen sold the land to Bourey LLC, a limited liability company managed by Paul Boudreau of South Hadley and Gerard N. Aubrey of Holyoke, for $880,665. Nielsen originally bought the property in 2003 for $620,000. Nielsen also sold off 0.924 acres of the property on Feb. 6 to Cynthia L. Rice. Rice owns a home on Plumtree Road abutting the property. According to the Registry of Deeds, the land would allow Rice to add to her existing home. Rice could not be reached for comment.

Though Bourey owns the property, the comprehensive permit still belongs to Sugarbush Meadows.

“A project like this where you’re given so little information, there will be more changes,” Talerman predicted. “We know from the Registry of Deeds there is a transfer of the parcel. We know very little. We don’t know what will happen. It could be a shell transaction for financial purposes or a substantial transaction.” The new property owners need to seek approval of the transfer of the permit from Sugarbush Meadows to Bourey. Until then, Sugarbush Meadows has the permit to build.

If the new owners have other plans in mind for the property, they have to request a project change within 20 days of being granted the comprehensive permit. The Zoning Board would decide if it is a substantial change, which in theory would require a new comprehensive permit.

Paul Boudreau, one of the new owners, has stated he is considering all options for the property. Boudreau would not comment on why he and Aubrey decided to purchase the property and how they intend to use it.

The town had sought to purchase the property and may still want to.

Selectman Scott Bergeron said the town sent a letter to Bourey expressing interest in the property. He said Bourey responded Monday, indicating interest in a meeting with the town.

The situation dates to September 2006 when Sugarbush Meadow filed a comprehensive permit under Chapter 40B to build the complex. Chapter 40B encourages the building of affordable housing and streamlines the local permitting process for developers. The Sugarbush Meadow project promised 25 percent of the apartments would be subsidized as affordable housing. The local Zoning Board of Appeals, however, denied Nielsen’s application in January 2008, setting off appeals.

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