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By Jack Minch


TOWNSEND — Gary Lorden’s Turnpike Village LLC wants to build two apartment buildings instead of the previously approved 45 free-standing condominiums under affordable-housing guidelines, so the Zoning Board of Appeals scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 29.

The market for new homes is stagnant but rental units remain in demand, Lorden told the board.

“The market, as we all know, has turned and the market for three-bedroom homes would be difficult, and two-bedroom homes would be impossible,” Lorden said.

The board needs to amend the comprehensive permit issued in March 2007 in order for the project to move forward as rental units, Chairman Darlene Sodano said.

The public hearing will give other town boards and neighbors several weeks to comment on the proposed change.

Lorden said he is planning to construct two buildings with 24 two-bedroom units in each, using a garden-style architecture on Turnpike Road across from Rossbach Farm.

The upscale homes would feature two baths in each unit, granite countertops and tile flooring, he said.

Parking garages using carriage-style or saltbox-style architecture would also be built for some of the rental units.

The board gave Turnpike Village a comprehensive permit in March 2007 with three years to at least make a substantial start to the project.

Lorden argued he made good progress by clearing the land, removing stumps, and installing a $150,000 water pipe to the project but the board agreed to ask a town attorney for guidance.

Even without an architectural change, a switch from ownership to rental unit is considered substantial under state MassHousing guidelines and all substantial changes to the plan require an amendment to the permit, Vice Chairman Bill Cadogan.

All the rental units would count toward the town’s affordable-housing stock but not all the units will be priced according to affordable guidelines, Lorden said.

The state requires 10 percent of each community’s housing stock be affordable but Townsend only has a 4 percent stock.

Affordable housing describes a home that is affordable for a four-person family earning 80 percent of the median income for the region.

That was $64,000 in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area during fiscal 2010.

The units will be managed by Mass Ave. Rentals LLC if the board amends the comprehensive permit.

Work on the first building would start as soon as the permit is amended, Lorden said.

In other business, the board reorganized after the meeting with Lorden, naming Cadogan the chairman and Sodano the vice chairman. Julie Johnson was re-elected the board clerk.