ROCKPORT — Although a housing development near Rockport's MBTA stop is years away from opening, members of the Rockport Planning Board have discussed early expectations for the project.

The Planning Board is pondering the new development for young people moving out on their own for the first time, new families arriving in town, those who commute to Boston frequently and older residents looking to downsize from their current living quarters. It will not be an affordable housing development.

Although nothing is set in stone as of yet, board Chairman Herman Lilja said the Planning Board is "looking at a three-floor, multipurpose development, with shops on the bottom and living quarters on the top. There are 70 housing units proposed." He expects it to open sometime between five and 15 years from now.

At an open forum last week, Tim Therman of Treehouse Design Inc. in Rockport, Russell Preston of the Boston-based urban design and development firm Principle Group and Chris Kuschel of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council addressed the crowd on their ideas for the proposed development. 

"We have been working with the town on finding the area's potential and what (type of development) residents would like to see there," Kuschel said. "The main barrier right now is the zoning laws." 

Kuschel detailed MAPC's first draft of a Transit Oriented Development proposal to attendees. It overrides some of the zoning laws in the MBTA area, between Pooles Lane and Railroad Avenue, such as not allowing buildings over 30 feet or developments with more than four living units. Lilja expects the proposal will be pitched at this fall's Town Meeting. Another public forum on the proposal will be held in June, right before its finalization. 

Therman showed off an early design plan to exemplify the scope of the project.

"They were unsolicited, pro bono, 'here's-some-ideas,' plans, " he said "We showed a more expansive vision which combines more private property than what MAPC had previously considered."

Some attendees at the meeting were concerned the development would change the character of the town. Others wondered if the area was too noisy from the trains outside. The developers put these qualms to rest, stating the development's design would blend seamlessly with its neighboring buildings and utilize modern construction techniques to insulate residents from excessive train noise.

Regarding affordability, Lilja indicated the Transit Oriented Development proposal could keep prices controlled.

"We understand the difficulty it is to rent, especially if you're young," Lilja said. "This development is being built to meet the needs of the town."

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.