WILMINGTON, MA — At a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Mike McCoy attempted to make a last-minute addition to the warrant of this year’s Annual Town Meeting to address Wilmington’s shortage of affordable senior housing.
Towards the end of the meeting, after the Town Manager’s proposed FY19 budget presentation, McCoy made a motion to “instruct the Town Manager to write an article on behalf of the Board of Selectmen for the sum of $5,982,500 for the purpose of truly affordable senior housing to be constructed at the Whitefield site. Those funds are to come out of free cash or debt exclusion.”
“The Board of Selectmen, along with the Town Manager, would determine a policy of occupancy,” said McCoy. “Occupancy would be that of a Wilmington resident – only a Wilmington resident. Age would be relative to social security retirement age, 62 or above. [Finances] would be based on social security income.”
McCoy noted that, way back in 2004, he presented an article that called for the construction of 24 affordable housing units on the Whitefield site. He wound up withdrawing the article as the economy suffered a downturn. With the town having a healthy amount of free cash, he feels now is the time to consider a similar project.
“I think it’s time we step up to the plate and do something for our seniors,” said McCoy, pointing out that seniors, many on fixed incomes, have contributed to the town’s recent construction projects, including the Middle School, Public Safety Building, High School, Yentile Farm, and various ballfields.
While McCoy’s motion was seconded for discussion, it was ultimately defeated, 4-1, by his colleagues, who simply felt they didn’t have enough information about the proposal.
“I appreciate the spirit of what you’re trying to do, but I’m hesitant to rush into something because we’re trying to beat a [Town Meeting warrant] deadline,” said Selectman Greg Bendel. “The $5 million could dry up quick since we don’t have sewer over there… I’m hesitant to move on this tonight.”
McCoy responded he believes a septic system could accommodate the project. When questioned about the $5.9 million amount, he noted that’s the same exact amount the town spent on purchasing and constructing the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility.
“1.5 acres of land is not enough for what this town needs relative to affordable housing,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “I don’t want to rush anything. I want see some cold hard facts… We definitely need to talk about this in the future.”
“I just have a lot of questions about this proposal,” said Selectman Kevin Caira. “It’s a nice idea. It’s a nice thought. It’s something to start to talk about, but — right now — it’s not the right thing to do.”
“I also appreciate the spirit of what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s worthwhile to have conversations about what the options are. That site could possibly the right site… Shoving this into a Town Meeting without more detail is hasty,” said Selectman Mike Champoux. “I’m, however, not in favor of the town being in the landlord business. If we can find a way through creative zoning to work with the development community to prepare a site in town that is identified for and specific to [senior affordable housing], I think that answers a lot of the problems. I’m not willing to endorse your effort this evening.”
Selectman Mike McCoy told his colleagues that he appreciated the conversation. Champoux suggested McCoy provide the town with his 2004 plans and they be added to the options that will require future study.
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