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Oxoboxo Lofts construction delayed again, making for a 'complex development'

Montville — Oxoboxo Lofts, a 72-unit development, was expected to open this summer but construction and restoration of the old Faria Beede Mill property, which began in 2019, has stopped and is delayed again.

From his home abutting the project, resident Jim Keefe said he had not seen any movement at the site for the past year.

Keefe has resided on Pink Row since 1984, around the time the neighborhood groundwater was contaminated in 1982, Faria Corp. being partially responsible. Thirty years later, the tachometer manufacturer is gone, and the property is being converted into housing, proving to be a challenging task for developers and the new owner of the property, Massachusetts-based Dakota Partners. The project was first proposed in 2016.

Despite the project's answering machine stating move-ins were estimated to occur late this summer, Eric Kuczarski, the development director for the project, said construction shut down in the spring and has not restarted.

Permits

Kuczarski said the project's abrupt stop was due largely to awaiting a flood management certification, which it received in March.

Following that, he said the development team worked to attain other permits, including a 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before discharging any dredged or fill materials into "waters of the United States."

This comes almost two years after Dakota violated flood management and water quality standards in November 2019 by placing fill in Oxoboxo Brook.

The delay in construction and state and federal permits also caused Dakota to request a five-year extension of the permits it obtained from the town's Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, set to expire Sept. 15, 2021, and the site plan approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, set to expire on Oct. 19, 2021. Both were approved.

Funding

Kuczarski said the project team also worked over the spring and summer to update the budget and commitments from investors.

Dakota co-founder and President Roberto Arista said in March that the majority of funding for the project comes from state tax credits and a Department of Housing loan of $6 million. Adding to that list, Kuczarski said they had committed a $22.5 million Bank of America loan, $1 million loan from Boston Private Bank and $19.5 million tax credit equity from Bank of America.

The total development costs are now projected to be $35.5 million dollars, slightly rising due to unexpected costs.

Environmental impact

Apart from permit and funding issues, the development had to breach the Picker Pond Dam on Oxoboxo Brook in November 2020 to ensure the safety of future residents.

The dam was removed by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman William Pieniadz's P&H construction company.

Despite this, Pieniadz said Thursday the situation still awaits the final stages and he said he plans to complete a permitted streambed restoration in the fall, a process that uses environmental design and performance products to reduce erosion and revitalize streams.

Keefe, whose house shares a stream with the Oxoboxo property, said he had noticed a lack of fish in it. Whether fish migration has been impacted by the development is unclear.

One of the standard reasons the town's Wetlands and Watercourses Commission listed for approving the extension of a permit was that the "environmental impact of the proposed project does not have a significant effect on the inland wetland's and watercourse's capacity to support fish and wildlife."

State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials were not available for immediate response.

Being what Kuczarski called "one of the most complicated projects" he has worked on, the development he said is projected to close this fall and accept openings next summer.

"It's going to be an amazing project," he said. "A beautiful mill complex that we're going to restore and offer affordable housing at this quality — it's going to be a great ribbon-cutting day."

j.vazquez@theday.com 

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