Judge and Green Look Back at the Decade That Made it Possible

May 09, 2012     In The Media

For years, the Pilgrim Station Nuclear Power Plant generated the highest tax revenue in America’s Hometown. Today, that status goes to The Pinehills.

The nuclear power plant’s tax revenue for fiscal 2012 did not hit the $10 million mark; The Pinehills did, garnering Plymouth $10.7 million in taxes.

Studies indicate that 90 cents of every dollar The Pinehills pays Plymouth in taxes is net – meaning the town only provides the development with the equivalent of 10 cents in services per tax dollar the town receives from The Pinehills.

One of the reasons is that The Pinehills has attracted so many empty-nesters; only 42 of the development’s residents are attending Plymouth’s public schools. The correlation between school-aged children and development is a grim one because the vast majority of local property taxes pay to educate Plymouth’s school children, and taxes collected from a single-family home often do not cover the cost to educate the kids who live there.

Ten years ago, The Pinehills LLC President John Judge and Managing Partner Tony Green said they estimated there would be .42 children per household, in keeping with the town’s average. Had this scenario played out, The Pinehills would now be home to 650 school-aged kids, or 15 times the current reality.

Other predictions were equally conservative. Back in 2002, when the development was in its infancy, experts predicted tax revenues would hover around $6.4 million annually at full build-out. The kicker is that The Pinehills is only halfway there, with 1,600 of the permitted 3,052 homes built and occupied, yet the development has already hit the $10 million mark.

Indeed, 2012 has been a banner year for The Pinehills, which continues to build homes and amenities that continue to sell. Town Meeting shook its head at original plans for the 3,000-acre parcel, and the development team went back to the drawing board. Again and again.

“Obviously, Plymouth cared a lot about its future,” Judge said. “It made The Pinehills better. In 120 meetings we understood the important issues to the residents of Plymouth.”
“A lot of towns wouldn’t have taken that risk or given us the opportunity to create a framework to do this,” Green added.

The “risk” was Town Meeting’s approval of the Open Space Mixed Use Development (OSMUD) zoning overlay district for the 3,000-acre site, which allowed for clustered homes, apartments, a village center, commercial development and preserving 70 percent of the land area as open space. Town Meeting finally gave its thumb’s up, and The Pinehills development team went to work creating homes, commercial space and amenities customers applauded.

But, while this project has seemed to be immune to the vicissitudes of an anemic economy, Green stressed that success is no magic trick. He and Judge have had to “pedal harder” at times to keep the numbers moving in the right direction.

In 2006, when sales lagged, The Pinehills had to modify its game plan and expand its selection of homes. Among other designs, the developer built slightly smaller homes with more creative floor plans and others with the same square-footage but a little more flexibility – like office spaces for the growing number of people working from home, outdoor courtyards situated inside the home’s walls and cottage-style homes that continue to sell like hotcakes.

Homes here often feature yards and stone-enhanced landscaping that require zero or at least negligible maintenance. More options is the buzzword – and that goes for prices as well. Customers can consider homes in the $300,000 to well over $1 million range. And, don’t call them “units” or Green will charge you a quarter. These are homes he said, whether it’s an apartment at Avalon, a Fresco condominium or a Summerhouse Cottage.

Neighborhoods were also redesigned and laid out in creative ways so that homes can front a park or green with the driveway to the rear of the dwelling.
On the commercial front, The Village was expanded to include an indoor-outdoor café, salons, hairdressers, a fitness club – you name it. And the Pinehills also added The Market and accompanying liquor store, Long Ridge Wine & Spirits, several years ago, giving residents and visitors upscale shopping that meets a myriad of needs, including ready-made dinners. Last year, The Rye Tavern opened, offering high-end dining at prices that also attract not-so-high-end paychecks. A gas station will top off this list of amenities soon, when Levis & Sons Gulf opens a station near The Market.

Other amenities
The area’s golf courses are among the more obvious amenities at The Pinehills, and have become an enormous draw to residents and celebrities alike. It’s not unusual to see Doug Flutie, Bruins players and Sports Illustrated regulars on the links. The Pinehills Golf club hosts 75 corporate events per year, Green said.
The Pinehills residents often pay community fees that cover snow removal, landscape maintenance and access to the Stonebridge Club, as well as other amenities. And many also pay neighborhood fees, which cover amenities specific to their neighborhood. For instance, Great Island, Del Webb’s 55-plus village within The Pinehills, features a mammoth club with an indoor pool, tennis courts and more.

The Stonebridge Club is a meeting place for countless groups, from hiking clubs to bird watchers, bicyclists, gardeners, sewing groups, ping-pong players, chamber music groups, chess clubs and so many more. Fitness classes are also held here, including Tai Chi & Qigong, yoga, Pilates, Zumba and total conditioning. The Stonebridge Club’s swimming pool opens May 26.

Development partners
The Pinehills has joined forces with a number of development partners like Del Webb, MacKenzie Brothers, Whitman Homes, Barefoot Cottage Company, Toll Brothers and The Green Company.
Green led a tour of the development last week, showing off the Summerhouse cottages located near the Village Green. These homes are a departure from the typical high-ceilings, wide-open new construction people are used to seeing. They feature front porches and the old-fashioned feel of a cottage, with smaller rooms, large windows and inviting fireplaces. One of these homes was selected as the site for the HGTV Green Home of 2010, which became a prize for a lucky family.

The best word to describe these designs, as well as The Green Company Fresco homes and Barefoot Cottage Company’s cottages, is “cozy.” These are homes with character you don’t typically find in new construction. There are nooks and crannies, windows in unusual places that enhance the experience of just walking up a stairway, and the property’s footprint is carefully considered. Homes are designed to have lovely views and plenty of privacy, in spite of their proximity to one another. In the case of the Fresco Homes, you can’t really tell which of the walls you share with your neighbor. The inner courtyard features an outdoor fireplace under a small roof that invites a chair, a book and a dog, even on a drizzly day. The Summerhouse Cottages front a park a stone’s throw from the Village Green.

“People think of the Village Green as an extension of their neighborhood,” Pinehills Realtor Paula Davison said.

Barefoot Cottage Company’s The Hickorywood neighborhood features stand-alone homes with barn-board and clapboard siding and exquisite landscaping that, once again, requires practically no maintenance. Green noted that Bill Wennerberg, of Barefoot Cottage Company, who serves on the Plymouth Planning Board, carefully replants many of the trees that are removed to make way for the homes. The result is nothing short of picturesque and calls to mind the woodlands of Vermont. The kicker here is that these creative and rustic homes with their old-world charm are brand spanking new. The residents who buy these and other cottage-style homes can enjoy an old-fashioned feel without the headache of constant repairs that accompany an old house.

In short, The Pinehills has kept pace with the changing needs and desires of the homebuyer on the way to becoming one of the jewels in the crown of America’s Hometown. And, at just half its full build-out, that gem is only going to get bigger.

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