In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was descending on the U.S., Wesley Finch and representatives of Lennar Multifamily Communities met in New York to discuss the potential sale of a portion of 35 Scudder Ave. in Hyannis.
Finch’s company, The Finch Group, had purchased the 54.5-acre property — which includes both the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis and the Twin Brooks Golf Course — in 2007 for $14,025,000, according to the town of Barnstable’s assessor database.
LMC, which advertises itself as the fourth largest apartment developer in the U.S., wanted to buy the 40-acre golf course portion of Finch’s property to transform it into an apartment complex.
Apartments described as workforce housing
Recent plans show the complex would feature studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments broken up into 13 three-story buildings clustered around surface parking lots. The complex would also include a recreational clubhouse featuring a fitness center and pool. Monthly rents are expected to range from the mid-$1,000s to the upper-$2,000s, according to LMC, which has billed the complex as sorely needed workforce housing for health care workers, first responders and hospitality staff.
LMC’s vision resonated with Finch, who currently plans to maintain ownership and operation of the hotel and conference center. He saw the nearby development of market-rate rental housing by a nationally-known company as a potential boon for his hotel and conference business, which includes restaurants, as well as the local economy more broadly.
He also saw a glaring local need for what LMC was proposing.
“By now, everybody and their mother knows that Cape Cod has a severe housing shortage and that the housing shortage is probably going to impact the local economy,” Finch said Monday. “It’s relatively clear that without a vibrant base of people, economies will eventually kind of drift away.”
Then there was the LMC’s offer.
“Quite candidly,” Finch said, “we agreed on the price. Let’s face it. Price has a lot to do with it.”
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By late June, Finch and LMC’s representatives had signed a purchase and sale agreement that became effective on July 1, 2020. Per the agreement, LMC will have the option to purchase the 40-acre golf course parcel from Finch after the apartment proposal reaches a certain point in the local permitting process, Finch said, adding that the agreement bars him from sharing the price LMC agreed to pay for the land.
Since the agreement was signed, LMC has been compiling the documents needed to complete the application that would kick off a formal review of the proposal by the Cape Cod Commission. The company has not yet finished the application, according to Sarah Colvin, Cape Cod Commission communications manager.
Neighbors organize with alternative plan
As LMC pursues review of its project, other groups have stepped forward to propose alternative visions for Finch’s property.
Neighbors say a 312-unit apartment complex would hurt the area’s character, add traffic and burden town’s infrastructure, degrade the fragile environment surrounding the golf course, and make the neighborhood more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They have formed a group called Save Twin Brooks. They say their goal is to marshal the funds needed to buy the land and turn it into a conservation area, which they argue is desperately needed in the more urbanized village of Hyannis.
Barnstable Land Trust works to scale down LMC proposal
The Barnstable Land Trust, working on a parallel but separate track from Save Twin Brooks, recently contracted with a planning and design firm that the organization has tasked with creating a proposal for the land that would prioritize open space but also offer some new housing. The land trust hopes to use those plans to influence local government permitting bodies into scaling down LMC’s proposal.
“We always advocate for land conservation where possible, but with the parcel already under agreement, we saw an opportunity to explore the potential of new and innovative solutions that protect open space and natural resources, provide needed housing, and support local revitalization efforts,” said Barnstable Land Trust Executive Director Janet Milkman in a recent statement.
“While this is a new direction for our organization, we believe it is important to engage the community in helping to define how this rare parcel of green space can be more thoughtfully developed and preserved,” she added.
Finch, who said he has been following news about local resistance to LMC’s proposal, said he’s standing behind the company that he’s under contract with. And he doesn’t think plans by Barnstable Land Trust or Save Twin Brooks have much chance of succeeding.
Proposals are ‘non-starters’
“I feel sorry to hear that because people are donating money to something that will never happen,” Finch said. “It doesn’t make any financial sense. I understand that people are afraid of the unknown, that people have always had it a certain way and they want it that way. But (those proposals) are non-starters.”
“As an individual investor, I am not prepared to minimize the return on an investment I made,” he added. “It comes down to dollars and cents. I’m happy with what I agreed to sell the property to Lennar for.”
Finch said LMC has put forward a well thought out proposal that he thinks will be a net benefit to the region.
“The cons, admittedly, are climate change,” he said. “That’s about it. My concerns about that are no different than the concerns of the vast majority of people who focus on it.”
“The question is, what’s in the best interest of the community?” Finch said. “That’s where the community leaders come in. Will the community leaders, the elected representatives or whoever they might be, cater to the 50 or so well-connected, wealthy neighbors, or will the community leaders support an economic catalyst for Hyannis, the town of Barnstable and the entire Cape?”
If the agreement with LMC is derailed by local opposition, Finch said he will have to determine what he will do with the entire property, which he speculated is likely worth around $20 million in total.
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but we are real estate developers,” he said. “We are best known for developing low-income housing. That’s always an option. There are tons of options out there.”
Reach Jeannette Hinkle at email@example.com.
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