River Marsh, a Chapter 40B development proposing 56 condominium townhomes in 14 buildings abutting the North River in Pembroke, was unanimously denied by Pembroke’s Zoning Board of Appeals on December 7, 2021. The decision confirms what we all know in our hearts… the North River is not the right place for dense development. There was much debate amongst the volunteer ZBA members about the threats to public health, safety, and the environment from this proposal and the best way to respond, and in the end, they concluded that the project could not be conditioned to address those concerns.
The decision was not taken lightly by the members, they faced a difficult decision and we thank them for their sincere deliberations and concern for the health of the North River and the community. Denial comes with risk, as it is almost certain that the developer will appeal the decision to the Massachusetts Housing Appeals Committee which favors affordable housing and places the burden on the local Zoning Board of Appeals to make the case that the project denial was warranted. Upholding the denial will be a challenge, a 2007 MIT study found that local denials are overturned nearly two-thirds of the time. The good news is that if the denial is upheld then the project will not move forward!
The NSRWA provided multiple comment letters regarding our concerns for the proposed project and its impacts on the local environment that we hope will provide support to the ZBA’s case. One silver lining to the case is that the State’s North River Scenic Protection Designation, a state law that cannot be waived by 40B projects, keeps the project 300 feet away from the banks of the North River no matter what happens. If that law was not in place the development could have been 100 to 200 feet closer to the river. This reinforces the need to keep the North River Scenic Act in place and the North River Commission supported, another issue that we fought for this year and will no doubt need your help again to keep strong.
This battle may have been won but the longer war to protect our waters continues.
Public Comment Letters from the NSRWA on River Marsh proposal: