MILTON — A dispute has been brewing for months between a group of Milton homeowners and a popular Malta developer, who wants to build nearly 100 apartments for people aged 55 and up in a quiet patch of woods.
In the months ahead, a proposal made last year by Malta Development Company, Inc. for a 91-unit Senior Housing Planned Development District (PDD) could be given final approval by Milton town officials.
The company plans to demolish one house directly across from Greybirch Trail to make way for an access point on Hutchins Road and a second on Margaret Drive. The new roads to the apartment complex would connect, for the first time, two neighborhoods of single-family homes that were built almost 50 years ago.
Tom Samascott, president of Malta Development, explained that he knows the neighborhoods well. For many years, his mother has owned a home on Coachman Drive, which more or less parallels Hutchins Road. Her property is located only a short distance from the project site.
Samascott is confident that the proposed apartment complex, utilizing a 14-acre parcel behind existing houses on the east side of Kristan Drive, will be “perfect for the town.”
“It’s a good situation for everyone. We’re trying to build something that people from Milton can live in,” Samascott said. He plans for construction to start later this year.
However, a longtime resident of Hutchins Road, Dorothy Christiansen, has been leading a petition drive in opposition to the project since last November, when the Town of Milton Planning Board had voted to advance Malta Development’s PDD application.
To date, according to Christiansen, more than 190 residents in the area (representing 135 properties) had signed her petition. “Our petition efforts will continue up until the project proposal has a public hearing or is withdrawn,” she said.
This week, Christiansen delivered the petition signatures on hand to the Milton Town Board at its regularly scheduled meeting.
Malta Development—a close-knit family business, Samascott indicated—currently owns and manages the popular Winner’s Circle apartment complex on Geyser Road, about one mile west of the Town of Milton’s main offices.
“Go by Winner’s Circle and you’ll see what we’ve done,” Samascott said. The Hutchins Road project is smaller in scale and has yet to be formally named but will be under the same management umbrella, he added.
According to minutes from a November 9 Milton Planning Board meeting, there were concerns raised by board members that included “conflicting acreage in the narrative” as well as “conditions of suitable water supply and density.” Still, they voted to refer the proposed PDD back to the full Town Board, which by law cannot give final approvals to the project until after a public hearing has been held.
After that Planning Board meeting, and with assistance from several neighbors, Christiansen targeted 220 properties in the area for distribution of a two-page informational document with a site map. (This writer obtained that document from a family member who owns property on Coachman Drive and signed the petition.)
“We are concerned about decimating our neighborhood,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen claims that current Milton zoning rules do not allow that many apartments on that particular tract of land. She also thinks additional traffic from the apartments “will have a major impact” on the residents of Hutchins Road and Margaret Drive.
Milton Planning Board Chairman Larry Woolbright explained that Malta Development seeks “a new zoning designation” for the land. He said only the Town Board can approve such a designation. “We don’t have the authority to refuse it,” Woolbright said.
Samascott disagreed on the potential traffic increase, noting the age group he plans to accommodate. He said people 55 and older have “a totally different traffic pattern” that “gets absorbed much easier.”
“Retired people have their own schedule,” Samascott said. Christiansen countered that only people who sign leases with Malta Development would be required to be 55 years old or more. “They can have kids in those apartments. There could be a lot more traffic,” she argued, pointing to a tendency among younger people to drive more often and with less caution.
In the last 20 years, traffic in that part of Milton has increased substantially following construction of several new housing developments and apartment communities on Rowland Street, to which Hutchins Road connects at its western end.
Another large apartment complex, also catering to people aged 55 and up, is currently being built at the nearby intersection of Northline Road and Greenfield Avenue.