Friday, March 19, 1999
Affordable housing bylaws cut from Warrant
At their March 9 meeting the selectmen cut from the Warrant for the May Town Meeting the bylaw amendments originally put forth by the planning board to provide incentives to develop affordable housing. It's not that the selectmen thought they were necessarily a bad idea; the amendments were tabled for lack of an appropriate sponsor.
The affordable housing bylaws would have been structured as amendments to the open space neighborhood (OSN) bylaw, itself an item to be included in a Warrant article at the spring Town Meeting, and to the existing conservation cluster bylaw. According to selectman Vivian Chaput, the planning board did not feel that they had the necessary expertise to forward the amendments at Town Meeting and had merely submitted the proposals to get a discussion started. Chaput also recounted that members of the planning board want to put all of their energies into getting the OSN proposals passed.
Similarly, the housing authority declined to be the proponent of the changes at Town Meeting. Housing chair Marty Galligan, who attended the selectmen's meeting, stated that in proposing the bylaw he would be diluting his efforts to obtain approval of the housing authority's proposal to build affordable housing on the Conant Land. An article to spend $40,000 for the design and associated costs of up to 12 units on the Conant Land is on the Warrant for the May Town Meeting.
Chaput then raised the question whether the selectmen should present the amendments. The selectmen decided not to sponsor the changes for two reasons. First, the Warrant for Town Meeting is already quite full and second, the selectmen did not feel that a consensus had yet been reached on how affordable housing should be developed in town. Specifically, whether there should be small scattered developments or larger concentrated ones has not yet been decided. Galligan added that in two surveys of the town over the past 15 years townspeople have favored dispersed development. "The problem under this approach," said Galligan, "is that we can't get the numbers necessary to satisfy the state." The state would like each community to have ten percent affordable housing.
"We need a deliberate approach," said selectmen John Ballantine. "We're reacting now. We must have a plan and act on it." Selectman Michael Fitzgerald commented that, while he saw no benefit in delaying the Conant proposal any longer, "we need to get a sense from the town on how committed the town is to affordable housing." The board will go forward with policy formation on affordable housing after the spring Town Meeting.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito