A plan to build new housing on a portion of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary property along Bridge Street has started a discussion among town leaders about what would best fit on the site.
Marc Johnson, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen, said town officials have been told that possible development of the property would not be a non-profit or educational use and instead be private development of housing.
“They have asked quite simply – what do we want?” Johnson said.
His comments came on Wednesday night as the Board of Selectmen met with leaders from several other town boards and commissions, including the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Hamilton Development Corp., Board of Assessor and Affordable Housing Trust.
Johnson and Gordon-Conwell President Dr. Dennis Hollinger both agree that plans for any development of 12-15 acres near Bridge Street and Miles River Road are still in the early stages.
"We are working with the town to explore various possibilities of developing some land in ways that would enrich and benefit the town of Hamilton,” Hollinger said in a prepared statement issued Friday. “While we look forward to mutually beneficial agreements, these are very preliminary discussions at this point."
Johnson said Gordon-Conwell’s plans call for the school to sell some property to a private developer, who would in turn develop it in line with the town’s vision.
“Everything is open at this point,” Johnson said.
The possible sale of some property and resulting development came up during discussions between Gordon-Conwell and the town government about payments in lieu of taxes or services in lieu of taxes. The seminary, as a non-profit, is tax-exempt. The plan being discussed for the new development would be privately-owned, taxable property.
The Conwell campus sits on 118 acres on Browns Hill and the possible development would occur on the north or northwest corner of the property. Peter Clark, a Planning Board member and former chairman, said he would want to look at topographic maps of the area but feels that the property is steep and would require several “cuts” to be developed.
Town Manager Michael Lombardo said he walked the property with Charlie Brett, the town’s building commissioner, and that Brett did not think the property was too steep to develop, but that a developer would be “hard-pressed” to put single family homes on the entire property.
To decide what should go there, town leaders should look at the recently competed housing production plan, said Bill Bowler, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a former Selectman.
“Is there something in (the housing production plan) that could potentially fit there?” Bowler asked.
The property may be a good location for age-restricted housing, said Selectmen Jennifer Scuteri.