OPINION: Questioning The Variances for 302 Whiting Street Development

Photo courtesy of John Speredelozzi

July 20, 2020 Submitted by John Speredelozzi on behalf of the Derby Brook Condo Association

The town has selected Habitat for Humanity to develop affordable housing at 302 Whiting Street. At one time Hingham was planning to use the parcel “for public safety purposes,” but wetland and riverfront setbacks made that unfeasible. The current submittal calls for building two 3 bedroom houses on that same parcel.

We, the residents of the Derby Brook Condominiums, are abutters to the proposed project, along with David Nickerson of 300 Whiting Street. As abutters our twenty residents, including five 40B affordable units, are in total support of an affordable house on the property. In addition to increasing the Town’s affordable housing stock it would be a most welcome improvement on the current state of the lot. The problem is that two houses cannot be built there without compromising the Town's health, environmental and septic by-laws, requiring in this case the doubling of allowable sewer water called for under Section Vl.8 of the Board of Health Supplementary Rules and Regulations. In their zeal to increase the affordable stock, the Hingham Affordable Trust is trying to cram two houses on a lot that is only zoned, under Town regulations, for one.  It is understandable that the Town’s Affordable Housing Trust wants to maximize land that was effectively donated to them. However, to do so on this property requires multiple waivers that endanger a perennial stream and a neighboring well, compromising our health and the environment. This is not acceptable. The fact that the Town is considering circumventing its own by-laws, especially when the town is in Safe Harbor, having exceeding the required 10% threshold for affordable housing makes no sense.

To put anything other than a single three bedroom house on this property would require two waivers to Hingham  Zoning By-Laws; five waivers to  Hingham Board of Health Supplemental Rules and Regulations for the Disposal of Sanitary Sewage; and two waivers to Hingham Wetland Regulations and Hingham Wetland Protection By-Laws. Because Hingham has met and exceeded its 10 % uncontested affordable housing threshold, none of these waivers are “consistent with local needs “ and should not be considered, much less approved. Several of the waivers being requested are critical for approval of two houses and should not be granted.

1. We should not be waiving the provision to put septic systems within 250 feet of Mr. Nickerson’s private potable well. 40 B or no 40 B, that’s just wrong. Mr. Nickerson, the closest abutter has appeared before the ZBA personally and expressed his concern for the health of his family and viability of his potable well. He has asked the ZBA to reconsider and allow just one 3 bedroom house, not two in such a constrained area.

2. We should not be compromising the Hingham Board of Health Supplementary Rules and Regulations that call for 330 gallons of allowable sewer water per day for a three bedroom house on this lot. This property is 41,287 square feet of space.  To absorb 660 gallons of sewer water daily (for the two houses proposed) requires 75,000 sf by code. That is twice the amount of sewer water allowable under the Dept of Health code. This is not the place to cut corners when “local needs“ requires abiding by the town’s standard protective regulations.

Input from town staff, including written input from the town’s Executive Health Officer, and public testimony from Dr Eric Shilts - Board of Health member, should not be ignored. Dr. Shilts stated that, “Protecting our environment and drinking water are the most important things we do as a town”. Among the concerns identified by the Executive Health Officer were the 250 foot required distance from a potable well and the constraint of 110 gallons per day per 12,500 square feet of space.

In conclusion, it is noteworthy that 100% of the owners of Derby Brook Condominiums and Mr. Nickerson, have signed and submitted a petition to the ZBA, disagreeing with the two house solution and asking the ZBA to abide by Safe Harbor and adhere to Town regulations that protect  the health, water supply and wetlands, that are so crucial to the sustainability of South Hingham, by approving only a single 3 bedroom house at 302-304 Whiting Street.

It is the right thing to do.


John Speredelozzi

Derby Brook Condominium Association


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