Select Board’s “Community Development” Goals

Goals touch on housing, a 40B, economic development, the Tricentennial, and

In my final post in my series on goals the Select Board hopes to tackle this year. Here, I’m providing context on five items under the heading “Community Development”.

The goals and tasks include efforts to develop Affordable Housing, improve communications with the business community, get planning underway for the Town’s Tricentennial, and support the growing senior population.

As I previously noted, the June goal setting meeting was only in-person (not recorded) and minutes don’t provide discussion/context around the goals. So, I’m not entirely sure what board members’ intent is for all of them. But I can add relevant context based on other public discussions, votes, etc.

Affordable Housing development

Making real progress towards building a “truly” affordable housing project may be the board’s #1 priority this year. (If not, it’s certainly close.)

Member Al Hamilton has been beating the drum on prioritizing “an actionable affordable housing plan”. When running for the office in the spring, he wrote, “We have ¾ of a million dollars sitting in a fund specifically for this purpose, some of which has been languishing for over 20 years. This status quo is unacceptable.”

That sentiment has been echoed by fellow members. All have acknowledged the need identified in the Town’s Master Plan, to “Create strategies to offer more diversity in housing, encouraging alternatives to large single family houses that would allow young professionals/families to reside in Southborough and seniors to stay in town.” The Master Plan notes that only 6% of workers in town live in Southborough, possibly due to lack of affordable options.

That goal doesn’t expect a housing project to be built within the year. Instead, they specified two necessary steps to complete so something can be built in the near future.

The first step is to finish transferring funds into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) affordable housing fund. Under state law, the AHTF Committee (AHTFC) can purchase properties for affordable housing projects without a vote by Town Meeting. 

Town Meeting has voted to authorize moving funds over in past years, but not all of those funds were moved. And more funds have accumulated in the CPA fund since. One cause for the holdup is CPC members want to ensure a process is in place to properly track and report how funds are spent/managed.

Since the state allocates an annual match to the Town’s CPA fund, there are use restrictions and state reporting requirements. If the state were to rule that the Town violated its CPA regulations, future state CPA matches would be jeopardized.

The AHTF also includes non-CPA funds (including from donations). Those funds don’t have as many restrictions as CPA funds on how they can be used. So, the town will need to track those funds separately.

According to member Kathy Cook, they’ve already worked out most of the details behind the scenes with Accounting. She believes this goal is close to being accomplished. Expect a Town Meeting Article for another transfer of funds this spring.

The second part of the goal is restructuring the membership of the AHTFC and SHOPC (the Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee) “to be more effective”.

Currently, AHTFC is made up mostly of Select Board members. They lamented that the committee currently relies on SHOPC. And they have been disappointed that SHOPC hasn’t achieved more. In April, then-member Lisa Braccio and Member Sam Stiver raised options for combining the committees as they have seen in other towns. 

Stivers spoke about committees that include members with expertise and experience (e.g., a realtor/property manager with understanding of affordable/fair housing issues, a developer/architect with experience in designing/building affordable housing, a banker with relevant financing experience, a real estate/municipal law attorney, and a resident who has rented/owned affordable housing.)

In July, the board rejected appointing Dorianne Jasinski, the SHOPC Chair and a member of the AHTFC, to act as the SHOPC representative on the Community Preservation Commission. Four members decided that given the lack of progress of SHOPC bringing forward CPA projects, a “shake up” was needed.

Hamilton and Cook appeared to hold Jasinski partially responsible for a February 28th meeting in which disputes between Town officials over process and politics may have derailed a potential small affordable housing project. 

This past winter, the Historical Commission Chair invited Cook to join his commission when touring 5 Cordaville Road prior to a Demolition Delay hearing. Because it was a prime spot near municipal properties, he wanted to put it on her radar. As a member of Habitat for Humanity, Hamilton reached out and volunteered to look at the home to give the Commission his assessment of its viability for a rehab project. Historical’s Kevin Miller was able to schedule that. He invited Jasinski. But she was unable to attend due to the short notice.

Braccio expressed frustration in the meeting that Hamilton was given a tour when AHFTC members weren’t informed about the opportunity. Miller argued that he had thought it was too early in the process. Braccio argued for a better process in the future. 

A lot of time spent on arguments and defenses about the process. (Although, I don’t know what occurred behind the scenes, Jasinski was not one of the officials arguing in that meeting.) Later, officials publicly blamed bickering that showed officials weren’t on the same page as one reason that the estate owners decided to stick with the developer looking to tear down the home and not to consider a project with the town.

In their July 11th explanations for not supporting Jasinski’s appointment, Cook referred to the February meeting as having devolved into a public gripe session, jeopardizing the Town’s efforts. Hamilton said that meeting was the reason he decided to run for the board.

Jasinski responded to criticism of SHOPC’s accomplishments by pointing to their work on the completed Housing Production Plan, their study of 21 Highland Street (South Union Building), and work in process on their 5-year strategic plan. She argued:

We are moving in the right direction. To just try to Railroad a project and just do something for the sake of doing it, and spending the money and it’s not right but the town, is not the right direction we should be going.

120 Turnpike Road  40B

The goal is to closely monitor 120 Turnpike Road potential 40B application in Summer 2023 and also investigate its appropriateness for the Local Initiative Program (LIP) under Chapter 40B.

The LIP is for Towns and developers who work together to develop a friendly 40B project. The state’s website explains it:

allows the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to provide technical assistance that qualifies as a “subsidy.” The LIP may also issue a site eligibility letter for a project, a prerequisite for a developer to apply for a Comprehensive Permit.

Unlike conventional housing subsidy programs, in which a state or federal agency must approve every aspect of financing, design and construction, LIP allows most of these decisions to be made by the municipality. LIP regulations and guidelines address those program components that must be reviewed and approved by EOHLC. For example, incomes of households served, fair marketing, profit limitation and establishing long-term affordability for the units which are built.

As I’ve written in previous coverage, members believed that this project wasn’t likely to have much opposition because it isn’t close to neighborhoods. Last week, Freddie Gillespie of the Open Space Preservation Commission and Stewardship Committee told the Planning Board that she had concerns about the proximity to “the most significant open space parcel in town”. She is worried about potential impacts to the wildlife. Both groups included comments to MassHousing on the project on their agendas for discussion. (Because the meetings weren’t recorded, I can’t yet say what members decided.)

On another aspect, Planning Chair Meme Luttrell provided an update to her board about questions she had raised about the legality of the developer’s plans for the property given the permit for the existing businesses on the site. She said that Town Counsel opined that an ANR (Approval Not Required) for dividing the land wouldn’t be possible. He believed the developer will have to pursue some kind of subdivision.

For more details on this project, see my past coverage.

Additional Goals & Task
  • Improve communications with business community, focus on key properties support EDC and new EDC Coordinator to diversity tax base; obtain report from new EDC coordinator to Select Board by end of December on promoting/retaining downtown businesses. (You can read about last fall’s discussion between disgruntled downtown business owners and Cook here.)
  • Fully staff Tricentennial Committee by end of October with first report to Select Board regarding recommended next steps completed by end of December. (You can read about that committee’s call for volunteers here. So far only Dennington has been appointed.)
  • Additional task for FY24
    • Plan for support of increasing senior population. (There wasn’t any detail provided on this one.)

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
  • © 2024 — All rights reserved.