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Staff writer

HARVARD After lengthy discussion of plans for 264 Ayer Road, the development group known as Massachusetts Housing Opportunities Corporation (MHOC) is looking to wrap up permits as soon as possible.

That was the message to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Jan. 31 from attorney Adam Costa, who represents MHOC.

The property has been under a purchase agreement for almost two years and permitting costs are adding up, he said. The client would like to see the ZBA s hearing on the project closed next month and then get a sense of what board s decision would be, he added.

I would just ask the board to keep that in mind, said Costa.

MHOC is seeking comprehensive permit approval for a 560-foot cul-de-sac and eight townhouse buildings that would contain 32 units of one or two bedroom housing.

The units are being permitted under Chapter 40B, which allowed developers to circumvent local zoning in communities with less than 10 percent affordable housing, provided the project has at least 25 percent affordable units.

The development also includes approximately 8,000 square feet of commercial space off Ayer Road, which will need seperate site plan approval from the Planning Board.

The ZBA permits Chapter 40B projects, but its discretion is essentially limited to health and public safety concerns.

ZBA Chairman Christopher Tracey answered Costa by noting key questions remain unanswered with the septic system and water supply.

While the ZBA could make a decision and include providing those services as a condition of approval, Tracey said those issues could significantly affect the design, which in turn could require another comprehensive permit. He suggested the applicant wait until the ZBA had a chance to hear opinions from the Board of Health and Conservation Commission. Board member James DeZutter agreed.

They don t need to be finalized, but I want some indication of where those boards are heading with this project, he said.

Tracey ascertained no application for the septic system had yet been filed with the health board, but one would be shortly. Also, the applicant will need to seek permission from both the Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Protection to put a public water supply in wetlands on the eastern end of the property.

Tracey said the latter measure is usually only allowed if denial would create hardship. MHOC consultant George Dimakarakos confirmed that s their position, due to the limited space on the 13.8-acre site.

In related business, ZBA member Robert Capobianco wanted more detail on numerous aspects of the design, such as fire suppression, landscaping, and whether there d a bus stop off Ayer Road.

Dimakarakos responded comprehensive permit layouts typically don t include that level of detail. Instead they are included as conditions of approval or outlined when the applicant is seeking building permits, he said. However, MHOC was willing to provide whatever information they need to make a decision, he added.

Capobianco made it clear he wanted more information on at least those points before taking a vote.

I personally would like to see as much as possible before I put my name on the line, he said.

The hearing will be continued on Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.