By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Town government is proceeding on three plans created by the Economic Growth and Sustainability Subcommittee, centered on affordable housing and redevelopment of parcels.
At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, Councilor Darius Gregory—who also chairs the subcommittee—outlined the plans, which he referred to as “deliverables.” He told the council during its virtual meeting that these were still in the conceptual phase and no votes should be taken until all the details have been finalized.
“We were originally tasked with identifying three properties of interest owned by the town,” he said. “We looked at a different direction. We thought it was premature, since not all the intelligence was in.”
This discussion is part of the process underway to determines if any of the 300 acres of land owned by the town can be redeveloped. Much of the land is already in use or protected, but some parcels have the potential to become new housing or business.
The first of the three concepts presented by Gregory calls for a third-party company to analyze town assets to further plan the economic development goals. Gregory said this would be the first step to pinpoint what assets can yield the best use.
The second would be to create an Impaired Property Fund run by Town Manager Michael Borg to further advance these efforts. Borg said that his office has been seeking grants to assist with this work, and described the Curtois site as one example of an impaired site.
“We would then figure out how we attract developers to work on the site,” he said.
Gregory added that this fund could also be used by residents who own property and wish to sell their land, but cannot due to contamination. Once the land is sold, a portion of the proceeds would be given back to the town to restore the fund.
“It’s a stimulus to get these under-performing properties back on the tax rolls,” said Gregory.
The last of the three conceptual plans would be a measure to support affordable housing in North Attleborough. Chapter 40B calls for each town to have at least 10 percent of its housing stock be designated as affordable, or in line with the median income for the community. North Attleborough only has approximately 4 percent affordable housing. Until this is met, the town has little means to stop housing projects which have affordable units.
Gregory said that he is particularly excited about this idea, and hopes to bring a finished version to the council for its Feb. 22 meeting. The subcommittee has reviewed similar measures that other towns have in place and made adjustments as needed.
“Nothing addresses the affordable housing commitment,” he said. “40B is the state’s commitment and we need our own.”
The council was very supportive of these concepts. Councilor Justin Pare liked the energy behind these plans. He said the concepts made sense and are the right approach to the matter of finding new uses for the properties.
Councilor Michael Lennox said that for too long, North Attleborough has had to wait for the state to make its own decisions before they could act. He likes the idea of a robust downtown, adding that in some cases a community has become too light on businesses, thus becoming “bedroom community.” He expressed concern over the impaired sites, that in the past owners have donated them to the town, leaving government to settle any issues.
“The town doesn’t want to be in a position where we’re taking on someone else’s problems,” Lennox said.