On second thought

Published 8:40 am Friday, May 27, 2011

A Suffolk developer is wisely re-evaluating his proposal to build 270 apartments on North College Drive in Franklin.

Tri-City Developers’ Bob Williams, who got the property rezoned for condominiums in 2005, has asked the Franklin Planning Commission to postpone until July a public hearing on his latest proposal, giving him time to go back to the drawing board.

Williams, a respected developer who is responsible for impressive residential and commercial growth in North Suffolk, is sensitive to the concerns of neighbors and city officials about high-density rental property.

In short, Franklin has too much rental property. Nearly 50 percent of existing residential units in the city are rentals. Statewide, about 32 percent of residential units are occupied by renters. Model communities have less than 30 percent rental property.

Condominiums are the more desirable approach to multifamily housing, and Williams, to his credit, has tried hard to make his original plan work. He has invested about $4.5 million in the property, including construction of six condos that, unfortunately, have not sold.

In 2005, no one, including Williams, could have anticipated the depth of the plunge of the housing market in the years to follow. We don’t blame him, six years later, for trying to find a way to produce a return on his investment — or at least cover his losses.

But neither do we blame city officials for their determination to raise the percentage of residential units in the city that are owner-occupied.