The Community Development Office has announced an “Affordable Housing Forum” on Tuesday evening, November 15th at the Police Station conference room to present their idea of an affordable housing plan. In short, their “plan” is to build one type of housing – for seniors – that is not really affordable, and that runs counter to everything residents testified we wanted during the Master Plan Committee hearings.
That violates everything that townspeople have been saying we want for years. What else did we expect? I certainly didn’t expect less of our self-serving Town Manager, Community Development Director, real estate lawyers and developers who dominate our housing and zoning committees and boards.
The most aggressive and destructive vehicle for achieving their objectives involves the use of the state’s Chapter 40R statute to bust local zoning without even requiring a zoning variance. Some folks are a little confused about the details regarding 40R. Basically, the more the town builds on land that’s not already zoned for building, the more money the state coughs up for the operating budget.
The net result is that Paul Cohen gets hundreds of thousands of dollars to help cover up his inept handling of the budget, the real estate lawyers get lots of business, the Chelmsford Housing Authority is relieved of the demanding task of redeveloping existing structures, and of course the developers profit handsomely.
Everyone is happy except the current and future residents of the town. Oh, and except people who really need affordable housing. Because the plan doesn’t provide truly affordable housing, and it certainly doesn’t target the demographics that most need housing (young working families) instead targeting the wealthiest demographic (the elderly). Chelmsford already has more senior housing than any of the surrounding communities, despite the fact that it is ideally located to serve working families, but CHA Director David Hedison isn’t willing (or isn’t able) to work out a regional plan that truly serves the needs of the region’s underserved working poor.
But the purpose of this message is to educate folks on how 40R works. Basically, the town commits to building high density urban style projects on open space where otherwise such building would not be able to occur. In exchange for sacrificing open space, future financial stability and environmental degradation, the state pays an upfront bonus of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a smaller amount per unit as the units obtain permits and are built.
It’s another way to sell us out on the cheap, just as they did with the “9 North Road” project.
The town’s Affordable Housing Plan is a despicable example of abuse of 40R to the detriment of the community. Here is a summary of how 40R rewards bad decision-making:
Note especially the following, which indicates that for the 165+ units they are proposing for Oak Hill alone (there are multiple other similar size developments in the plan), Paul Cohen can expect a half-million dollars in operating budget revenue from the state the first year or two. It makes sense if you don’t care about the future of the community.
Do you remember the “Smart Growth Forum” this summer that preceded this “Affordable Housing Forum?” Now do you see the pattern? The theme of that “Smart Growth Forum” was that the town has to find ways to become “more friendly to developers.” That’s the religion in Town Hall, thanks to ignorant selectmen, a corrupt and incompetent Town Manager, self-interested board and committee members, and predatory developer cronies.
The decisions have been made. The forum on Tuesday will give citizens one more opportunity to speak and be ignored. We have a different plan to counter this institutionalized graft, and will keep you posted as events unfold. We are counting on the good people of the town to outlast the half-wits and crooks who are working so hard to destroy our quality of life.
Roland Van Liew