The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 23, 2009

Benfield developer selected, what’s next?

With the selection of a Benfield developer completed, the Affordable Housing Trust met on January 15 to review the process going forward and to discuss the financial implications to the town. The trust was formed by Town Meeting in 2006 to facilitate the creation of affordable housing. Members include the five Selectmen as well as Planning Board representative Greg Peterson and Housing Authority representative Jim Bohn.

Steve Pearlman, Housing Authority member, noted that negotiations are in process with the chosen developer, NOAH of East Boston, and after that piece is concluded, financing will be the next step. Some of the grants are issued only once a year, and depending on timing, “It could be a matter of months or even years” before financing is in place and the project can begin.

Pearlman hopes the negotiations can be completed in six months or less. The proposal contains expected sources of both public and private funding, including the $425,000 approved by Town Meeting and held by the Housing Trust for infrastructure improvements. It is anticipated no other funding will be required from Carlisle unless one of the other sources does not pan out and cannot be replaced. In that case, a Town Meeting would have to decide if the project should go forward with additional town funding.

Peterson asked how risky the financing could be. Bohn said that if the chosen developer cannot put the funding in place, a second developer would get the chance. “How long will it be?” asked Peterson, “One year, two years, three years before you jump to horse number two?” Responded Bohn, “I guess if we’re not out of gate in a certain time, we’ll need to re-saddle up.” Having taken the horse racing analogy as far as it would go, Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett compared the process to school applications. “You’re in line and hope at each step you’re the most prepared.”

Discussion continued concerning the process of administering the $425,000 for infrastructure, which the Housing Trust controls. Peterson said it makes more sense to transfer the funds to the developer at the appropriate time than to generate another proposal to do the infrastructure project separately. Barnett reported that the Town Meeting that approved the transfer to the Housing Authority set a time limit of four or five years before the funds revert to the Community Preservation Act fund.

Jerry Lerman of the Finance Committee wondered about the possibility of cost overruns, and was advised that any overruns would be the developer’s responsibility. Selectman Doug Stevenson suggested protections against bankruptcy, and Peterson agreed that a performance bond insuring completion of the project would be a good idea. Town Counsel will be consulted.

The Housing Authority will give an update at the Board of Selectmen meeting on January 27. See related article, “Housing Trust reviews Benfield developer selection process.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito