Friday, August 12, 2005
Next steps for Benfield Land
Work is continuing behind the scenes on the Benfield project this summer. To find out what is happening, the Mosquito spoke with Selectman John Williams, Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky, and former Selectman John Ballantine. Ballantine served as the chairman of the Benfield Task Force and continues to volunteer on the project. He explained that two requirements must be met before the affordable housing development can proceed. (For more details on the parcel, which includes 26 acres for conservation, as well as land for a ball field and up to 26 units of affordable housing, see Town Meeting approves Benfield Plan B by two votes, in the June 9 issue)
First, the town must submit formal deed restrictions to the state for approval and must designate third parties to hold and enforce the restrictions. Ballantine and Selectman John Williams are now working with legal counsel to develop three restrictions for conservation, affordable housing, and recreational use. The Board of Selectmen is also seeking local non-profit organizations to take on the responsibility of holding the restrictions. The town expects to complete this work by September 30.
Second, the Selectmen are reviewing all comments on the report prepared at the request of the Mass. Historical Commission last spring by Public Archaeology Laboratories (PAL) (see also Town hires professional archaeologist to study possible artifacts on Benfield Land, in the April 1 issue.) The PAL report assessed the historical significance of the Benfield land in terms of the Native American presence. The Narragansett Tribe has expressed concern over disturbance to certain of the stones located on the site. While the selectmen will continue to listen to the comments of the Native Americans, Williams stressed that "we are not negotiating with them." Lehotsky said that the Housing Authority is not at this point directly involved in any meetings with the tribal representatives.
It is expected that these processes will be completed by the fall. Lehotsky said the Housing Authority will wait for the Board of Selectmen to give the go-ahead. Then the design funds authorized at Town Meeting will become available and the Housing Authority, working in cooperation with a non-profit housing developer, will begin to prepare RFPs (Request for Proposals) for building the roadway, housing and ball field on the Benfield Land.
© 2005 The