3 to 1 vote to authorize an RFP to develop the Marra Property

After about an hour’s discussion my colleagues on the board voted to authorize a Request for Proposals to develop the Marra Property despite a vote at the previous week at Town Meeting expressing a lack of confidence in the project.

They plan to solicit bids from contractors and come back to Town Meeting in April to approve the project and to approve the disposition of our land, despite the vote taken last week.

I voted against this action because:

  • Town Meeting’s vote to Indefinitely Postpone Article 11 amounted to a no confidence vote for the project.
  • The project is not likely to achieve its stated goal of providing a safe harbor from 40b developers.
  • There are higher and better uses for that parcel of land.
  • Proceeding ignores the Wampum Corner Corridor Study which was commissioned by the Selectman’s office (for which we paid nearly $50,000).
  • Going forward ignores the will of the community as expressed during the Wampum Corner Corridor Study meetings, which is to leave alone the Wampum Corner Corridor between West Street and 495.
  • When the previous Town Meeting voted down the Hotel Overlay District, they made it clear that the did not want any development between Wampum Corner and 495.

This project is extremely unlikely to accomplish its stated goal of providing a  safe harbor from a large 40b apartment complex.  Even if all of its many moving parts work, as proposed, the assisted living facility will only buy us one to two years safe harbor, at which point we will be faced the the same pressures by large landholders and 40b developers and we will still not have a comprehensive plan to achieve the state mandated 10% affordable housing.

Creating an assisted living facility for injured veterans is a laudable goal. The soldiers who sacrificed their health for our freedom deserve all we can give them and more. However, this issue is about developing an effective policy and a comprehensive strategy for satisfying the state’s M.G.L. 40b housing requirements not about helping disabled veterans.

The project proposed by the RFP, violates the spirit of  M.G.L. 40b which was enacted to stimulate the creation of housing for low to moderate income working people in Massachusetts.  There are so many moving parts to this proposal that Wrentham would be better served by solving our affordable housing requirements differently:

  • Certification of the units by the state as affordable under the terms of 40b  is not guaranteed.
  • Funding depends on securing numerous grants from Federal and State agencies at a time of profound financial uncertainty.
  • Even with Federal and State funding, the economic feasibility of developing the site is cost-prohibitive and, according to the experts with whom I have consulted,  will require a much larger build out to make the numbers work for any potential developer.

The project’s proponents and the lawyer are the same people who led the failed  attempt to force the state to count beds at the state school as certified affordable housing.  Now they want gamble our money on another long shot.

Questions

How can the project’s proponents suggest municipal government “step up to the plate” and find places in the budget to save money on one day and spend our money so frivolously on another?

How many ways does the town have to say no before the project proponents respect the will of the community?

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