NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 12, 2012

Meeting to seek change in affordable housing statute

By Angeljean Chiaramida STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News

---- — SALISBURY — On Oct. 22, Town Meeting will have a 17 warrant articles to consider, including a home rule petition requesting the Legislature alter its definition of affordable housing in a way that limits more large Chapter 40B subdivisions in town.

Article 12 requests that the Legislature include mobile and manufactured homes that have remained on the same parcel of land for 20 years or more in its definition of low- and moderate-income housing under Chapter 40B of the state’s affordable housing statute. According to Town Manager Neil Harrington, the price of these dwellings falls into the affordable category, but the state has not included them in the town’s affordable inventory because mobile homes are considered temporary by current state definition.

Salisbury has long argued that if its mobile home units were counted as part of the town’s affordable dwellings, it would more than meet the state’s requirement of having at least 10 percent of its domiciles in the affordable category. Once a community meets the 10 percent level, it can turn away developers who want to build large 40B subdivisions in town. Currently, Salisbury must accept them with little authority over how and where they’re built.

Chapter 40B developers can ignore a town’s zoning, building many more units per acre than town ordinances allow, even ignoring setback regulations. This exemption is offered as an enticement for 40B developers, who must price at least 25 percent of the units in what the state considers a moderate range for this region.

Salisbury has been the target of a number of 40B developments in recent years, including Salisbury Woods and Windgate. However, although a quarter of the units were priced in what the state considers “affordable,” few Salisbury residents have been able to afford to buy them.

Attempts to alter the 40B regulations have failed over recent years, and town officials are hoping this alteration in the 40B statute definition will assist the town in stabilizing its housing figures.

Article 11 requests Town Meeting authorize a revolving fund for the Department of Public Works to accept rental and other fees charged to tenants of the former Memorial School and the former Spalding School. The money would be used to pay for capital repairs and improvements to the two former schools.

Article 17 is a citizen’s petition that would change the manner in which the town bills for its water and sewer rates.

The remainder of the warrant questions request Town Meeting approval to transfer monies from one account to another to meet financial obligations.

Transfers from the free cash account include:

$14,000 to purchase radio equipment for the police department.

$8,000 to fund vehicle repairs for the fire department.

$11,000 to purchase pagers for the fire department.

$25,000 to replace broken parking meters at the beach.

$148,000 to fund the retroactive costs of the police union contract.

$58,000 to the town’s Stabilization, or rainy day, Fund.

$25,000 to the Post-Employment (retired) Benefits (insurance) Liability Trust Fund (authorized by Article 13 of the May 16, 2011 Annual Town Meeting).

$10,300 to fund general liability insurance costs.

$15,000 to purchase an automated parking kiosk for the Beach Parking Lot.

$5,000 to fund costs associated with defending the town in an arbitration hearing to former police department employee.

$7,500 to fund an assessment center evaluation process for the rank of sergeant within the police department.

$9,400 to fund costs associated with an expert witness in a tax abatement appeal case.

One other financial transfer would move $5,000 from police department schooling fund to the department’s employee training fund.

Town Meeting will take place in the auditorium at Salisbury Elementary School, located at 100 Lafayette Road. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.