The essential issue with Article 16C on the April 6, 2024, spring Town Meeting warrant, a request by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for $4,000,000 for affordable housing, has been obscured by a compressed timeframe. Redbrook neighbors have not had time to digest the impact to the community of the ADM/Grantham proposal to build 52 units of affordable senior (over 62) housing behind the Meeting House in the Redbrook Village Commons.
The Commonwealth and our town officials describe a housing crisis. Article 16C is a request to enable those proposed units to be “deeply affordable.” I believe that funding for such a proposal should be supported by all the resources of the town, not just Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. The requested $4,000,000 in CPA funds could be spent on other discretionary projects as intended by law – on historic preservation, open space, and, yes, affordable housing.
As Redbrook residents and citizens of the town, we have been focused primarily on the impact of the Grantham proposal on the character of our Village Commons and the physical problems implied. Those impacts recommended rejection of Article 16C at the planning level (transportation and circulation), proposal details, especially parking and access to services (Redbrook is automobile-dependent), and disturbance to what I think of as shared community space: the Village Commons. We have only peripherally discussed the funding source for the article.
ADM recently (last week) moved the proposed development out of the space behind the Meeting House, which addressed problems with the Village Commons.
So where might $4,000,000 come from to support “deeply affordable” housing? Clearly, ADM could provide $4,000,000 in funding from profits accrued over time from the 2008 special permit negotiation and become the poster child for affordable housing in the Commonwealth and achieve a major PR boost. But your Plymouth Community Preservation Committee (CPC), led by Karen Beuchs, Betty Cavacco, and John Mahoney, allowed the current article to be placed on the Town Meeting warrant. So Town Meeting members are now asked to vote to spend the $4,000,000 using CPA as the funding source.
As Select Board member Harry Helm said at that board’s last meeting, “we [in Plymouth] are all in this together,” meaning that all Plymouth residents should be responsible for supporting affordable housing: Manomet, West Plymouth, town center, North Plymouth, Cedarville, all of the town. I go a step further and say we should be spreading the financial responsibility for the project generally across the town budget, using the general fund, free cash, and, perhaps, augmenting the “ask” with the 10 percent of CPA funds specified in the CPA.
Defeating Article 16C at the April Town Meeting gives Redbrook neighbors time to have conversations about problems with ADM’s adjusted proposal. We still don’t know the details. Postponing a vote to next fall’s Town Meeting also allows for the focus of discussion to move to the Grantham business model and the request for $4,000,000 in CPA funding. That request is what all 162 Town Meeting members will be voting on in April.
The town has many housing-related resources: Affordable Housing Trust, Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, Land Use and Acquisition Committee (LUAC), as well as Community Preservation Act funding. Our Beacon Hill delegation should be called on to help as well. All of these and others should be working together, leveraging all of their various skills, networks, and funds to focus on the problem of affordable housing in Plymouth and work to achieve the Commonwealth and Plymouth’s goal of 10 percent Affordable Housing.
So unlike Harry, who voted yes, allowing for $4,000,000 of CPA funding to be placed on the warrant, I will be voting no on Article 16C at Town Meeting. Over the next few months, I will be asking all of the 162 Town Meeting members to vote no as well.
Hutchinson is Town Meeting chair for Precinct 17.
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