Voters at Hamilton Special Meeting heartily shot down a proposal for the Affordable Housing Trust’s (AHT) coffers to fund the development of an apartment complex off Longmeadow Way.
Voters at Special Town Meeting on Oct. 13 rejected through a majority vote on Article 2-6.
The vote essentially leaves future of the Longmeadow project entirely within the hands of developer Harborlight Community Partners (HCP) and the proposed Willow Street senior-only affordable apartments in limbo.
Specifically, Article 2-6 requested the transfer of $600,000 from the town’s free cash to the AHT’s own account. This amount would be combined with $400,000 from another forthcoming payment in lieu of taxes towards affordable housing from the so-called “Canter Brook” age-restricted development along Asbury Street along with $300,000 from the AHT’s existing funds, for a total of $1.3 million to reduce the overall size of the proposed apartment complex.
The amount, through a future negotiation with the developer, would lock the complex at Longmeadow Way to no less than 40 units and a cap of no more than 50 units.
HCP had previously stated they would be willing to develop a senior only apartment complex on the Hamilton Development Corporation owned Willow Street parcel in the downtown should a “sister site” for family affordable units be located elsewhere in town.
AHT member Marc Johnson, speaking for the article, noted this deal at Longmeadow was essentially the town’s last chance at local control over projects outside of litigation. Further, this contribution would bring the units in line with the town’s demands.
“We don’t want 100 units. We don’t want 200 units. We want 40 units,” Johnson said.
He added the AHT had spend the past several years attempting to locate other housing sites, only to be stonewalled by abutters and existing property owners.
“The Affordable Housing Trust has spent the last two and a half years really pissing off a lot of communities in town,” he added.
Still, voters at Town Meeting reiterated their desire to shut down the talk of any funding for the project and stressed their animus to the very concept.
Anna Siedzik, who was hissed at and verbally harassed by Town Meeting voters before intervention by Town Moderator Jeff Melick, reiterated the need for local control through funding and the light a no vote would paint the town.
Siedzik is among the founding members of the Hamilton Affordable Housing Advocates groups.
“It’s a social policy that we rise up together,” she said. “This is the intelligent vote and the right vote for your moral compass.”
William Dery, one of the throngs of opposed, originally wanted to call the article “extortion” and a shady transaction before yet more intervention by Melick.
“The word extortion comes to mind here,” Dery said. “In this case if you don’t pony up, [HCP will] build something most people don’t want. … It borders on being criminal, we’re essentially paying someone not to build.”
Other speakers similarly stressed sentiments of opposition, such as Jean Towne.
Towne said the issue had become a bitter divide for the town before arguing existing developments along state highway Route 1A have already damaged the town’s character enough.
“It’s been a disturbing three years for people in town,” she said. “Hamilton has become a polarized community surround this issue."
Although rejecting further construction in town, voters remaining after the Article 2-6 vote took a keen interest in protecting their property assets and potential revenue generation through modifications to the accessory apartments bylaw.
Voters, through a majority two-thirds vote, passed Article 3-1, which contracts and modifies the existing accessory apartment bylaw on the town’s books, along with two modifications.
The new bylaw specifically allows property owners to create apartments in their existing single family homes with the following new conditions on top of all existing laws: Off-street parking for renters is required, any modifications must keep the structure a single family home, no more than two bedrooms and one bath, and a maximum size of 900 square feet for apartments.
Apartments for long-term rentals would be allowed through a special permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals pending a standard permitting process.
Additionally, no commercial use of the apartments -- such as AirBnB -- would be allowed.
Voters supported the changes with one notable amendment: allowing the special permit to transfer if the original home is sold. Previously, such sales would require a reissuance of the permit.
Amendment supporters argued the accessory apartment should transfer with the sale to increase the resale values of single family homes featuring such apartments.
The second, smaller amendment, essentially clarified some legal language.
Special Town Meeting voters ultimately supported the 10 other articles on the warrant, including $90,011 in funds to the Patton Homestead, part of which will hire a full time homestead director for six months. Voters also gave a thumbs up to the town renting out space in the former town landfill for a forthcoming solar panel array project.