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Falmouth council revisits workforce housing options

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Falmouth council revisits workforce housing options

FALMOUTH — The Town Council will take a fresh look at workforce housing options during a workshop meeting next week.

In May, little more than a year after establishing an ad hoc Workforce Housing Commission, councilors voted to halt plans for an affordable housing development on town-owned property off Woods Road because of misgivings over the location, cost and physical limits of the site. At the point councilors made their decision, the developers were asking the town to share the risk for expense of the next steps –a detailed site investigation and a market study –by committing to pay the collaborative $20,000 if the project was subsequently voted down.

But at their 2009 retreat, councilors chose to reconsider affordable housing options, using a memo of "Potential Next Steps" prepared by town staff as a guide. Their first discussion will be on Monday, Nov. 9.

"It's an opportunity for the councilors to look at the memo we crafted for them that lays out a myriad of things you could do to contribute to workforce housing," Theo Holtwijk, director of long-range planning, said Tuesday. "It's really open-ended; we're interested in finding out what direction the councilors want to take."

The memo outlines possible approaches and action steps for the council. It lists possible locations and scenarios that include the Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools site, a Portland property at Blackstrap and Gray roads, redevelopment of Town Hall if the building is relocated, consideration of other town-owned or privately-owned properties, development of a portion of some new open space acquisitions or consideration of a smaller Woods Road development.

The memo also addresses how to handle zoning, whether to support other organizations' efforts to build affordable housing, and what financing options to consider. It includes suggestions on ways to educate the public, on evaluating prior housing recommendations and materials on "best practices" for affordable housing. It also explores the organizational approach with regard to committee or individual involvement in the process.

In its introduction, the memo states, "Key for the council is to form a solid consensus on this issue and be clear about its instructions and anticipated project outcomes."

The Workforce Housing Commission has not met since May, when the project was scrapped. There are four vacancies on the panel. Councilor Dave Libby, who championed the cause of the affordable housing and served as council liaison to the commission, said Tuesday he was unsure if those who remained would want to continue after their effort ended in defeat.

"We give it lip service to make ourselves feel good, but at the end of the day, most of us don't want it," Libby said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.