LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Petitioner Jackie Welch Asks Residents To Vote YES On Article 53

Dear Residents of Wilmington,

My name is Jackie Welch and I am the petitioner for Article #53, the rezoning of 333 Andover Street (also known as the Sciarappa Family Land) to neighborhood mixed use.

I was born and raised here — I’m a member of WHS Class of 2002, a long-tme volunteer coach for Pop Warner cheerleading and a business owner here in town. I’m engaged to Mike Senarian, a local electrician and WHS alum, and we’re fortunate enough to own a home on the same street I grew up on.

My father, Michael Welch, is a local builder and the co-developer for this project. Also born in Wilmington, he raised 7 children here and has always made it a priority to give back to the town, assisting in the building of the caretaker’s house at Camp 40 Acres, the snack shacks at Rotary Park and Glen Road, and many more. In 2016, he worked with a group of volunteers to rebuild a home for a member of our community when their house collapsed, and insurance wouldn’t cover the damage.

We love Wilmington and our mission is to use this land for good. Rather than building a handful of 4-5 bedroom homes, we’ll create a desperately needed housing stock that is affordable and contributes to the character of the town. We want to help the WHS alumni who were priced out of the market to come back and raise their families here. We want to help Wilmington’s baby boomers to downsize comfortably and remain in the town they call home. We just want to level the playing field amidst skyrocketing list prices and an unprecedented housing crisis.

We’ve partnered with Amanda Munsie, Founder and Manager of the Wilmington Farmers Market, to conceptualize an operating community farm that will be the heart of this neighborhood. We’ll provide a place for community events and offer cooking classes, yoga, educational programs, and more.

Our proposal is for studios, 1 & 2 bedroom units centered around a working farm to create an “agrihood.” We will offer both sales and rentals throughout. Our goal is to enrich our town – not take away from it.

We realize there are many questions and concerns on this issue, and I’d like to take the opportunity to address them here:

Understanding The Land At 333 Andover Street

This parcel of land is the first residential piece on Andover Street after the commercial zone. Neighbors with bordering property include one of the land’s current owners, the new over-55 development, the Town of Wilmington Water Department, and Fosters Pond. There are also 4 neighbors that face the property on the opposite side of Andover Street.

Why Rezone?

Currently the land is zone as an R60, which means that 1 lot = 60,000 square feet. Leaving this as-is it would allow for 45 new homes to be built on 60,000 sq. ft. lots. These homes would likely sell for $800,000 (or more) which is market rate fore new construction in Wilmington.

Don’t We Need To Preserve Open Space In Wilmington?

There are 62.5 acres at 333 Andover Street. 12.2 of those acres are wetlands and there’s a utility easement owned by National Grid that is 200 feet wide and 2,770 ft. long totaling 12.7 acres of a “no-build” area. That means of the 62.5 acres, 24.9 acres (39%) will remain as open space.

Additional, this property borders 250 acres which is commonly known as Fosters Pond. Our plan includes the development of new walking trails that will link with those that already exist in the area, including The Wilmington Town Forest (154 acres of town-owned open space) and Camp 40 Acres (39 acres of open space).

The trails, along with a robust community farm, will allow for more opportunities to enjoy the beauty of our town, rather than diminish them.

What Does “Affordable Housing” Mean In Wilmington?

A common misconception is that our development will “bring in the poor people.” (I’m horrified to even repeat that, but grateful to be able to explain it.)

Affordable housing is set at “80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).According to a presentation made by Town Planner Valerie Gingrich in 2017, Wilmington’s AMI is $103,000 and 80% of that equates to an individual making $57,750 (or less) or a family of 4 making $78,150 (or less) per year.” These are the same salaries as our very own town employees and teachers.

Chapter 40 is a law that addresses affordable housing and clearly states each town must maintain an affordable housing stock of 10%. If the town fails to do so, it is subject to a “penalty” known as a 40B project. The rules for 40B are very simple – there are no rules! Every neighborhood, every street in every zone and in every location throughout the entire town is open to a 40B project.

FACT: In 2020, Wilmington will fall below the 10% mark by 60-70 units. Our proposal is to donate 40 units back to Wilmington’s affordable count to delay any pending 40B plans. — Valerie Gingrich, 11/13/2017, in presentation to the Board of Selectmen.

What About Senior Citizens?

Fact: The Town of Wilmington does not own one unit of senior housing. According to Wilmington’s 2017 Facility Master Plan, “the senior population segment in Wilmington is expected to grow significantly and disproportionally relative to the other segments of the population. It is reasonable to expect related grown in the demand programs and services associated with senior citizens and potential veterans’ services.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2020, the 65 & older population will reach 89 million. Every 8 seconds, a baby boomer turns 65, which means 10,000 people  day turn 65, which equates to 4 million people a year.

As a predominantly single-family lot town, where are these seniors going to live if their homes become too big for them to maintain? Our proposal is to designate a portion of this land and build both senior housing and subsidized senior housing. To clarify, this is not “over 55 housing,” this is senior and subsidized senior housing that so many people in this town truly need to be able to stay in this town and still afford to live. To clarify, this is allowed in NMU zoning.

Won’t This Overflow Our Schools?

Another common misconception is that our schools are at max capacity, and this is false. According to information provided by Joseph Connelly, a consultant hired by Wilmington Public Schools, we have the seating capacity for another 645 students across all grades, including WHS which currently enrolls 869 with a max capacity of 960. Based on the 2017 Master Plan, “the population of children is projected to decrease substantially in the decades to come and the services for children (particularly the schools) are likely to experience decreasing demand over time.”

Why Vote YES?

Although this property to be rezoned will not solve all of Wilmington’s housing needs, it will surely help. Our proposal is for 250 units (210 market rate units and 40 affordable units). In additional, we’ll be designating an area for veteran housing, an area for senior and subsidized senior housing. This will help Wilmington with the required 10% of affordable housing and delay 40B projects from entering our community. Along with the housing, the Sciarappa Village will provide Wilmington with a beautiful working farm, walking trails, and community event space.

We encourage you to vote YES on Article #53 on Saturday, May 5 at the WHS starting at 10:30am.

Sincerely,

Jackie Welch

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One thought

  1. Thanks for your note.

    Does your plan include reimbursing the town for all of the capital improvements required for the rezone?

    You know things like new water and sewer lines…

    Widening the road to accommodate the massive number of cars that will flood the narrow road…

    Paying the millions for the eminent domain seizure of the businesses and properties on Andover Street needed to widen the road for the traffic this rezoning will cause…

    250 units my foot… You will flip this to someone who will built out the full 680 units which means a lot more kids. If there is really room for 645 additional students in the Wilmington schools your proposal will take up all the slack and then some. 30-50 new teachers and administrators is going to cost millions a year not counting new rooms/schools.

    Are you going to reimburse the town for the new fire substation needed for that many new people on this side of town?

    Will you find a way to magically hold back units for the elderly? How do you plan on doing that? Are you going to hold a lottery and subsidize seniors in-perpetuity?

    I know you can’t answer those questions honestly but I do have one that perhaps you can answer…

    How rich do you need to be?

    Would not building ‘only’ 45 $800,000 homes make you rich beyond what most people could ever dream of?

    Rezoning will cause my property values to go down and taxes to go up while the Town is forced to pay millions in new costs. If this passes you will have figured a way to socialize the costs for your avarice.

    For anyone in Wilmington who doesn’t want to see yet another override and even higher taxes – vote NO on 53 and Yes on 2.

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