Council discusses proposal for fair housing bylaw

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North Attleborough Town Hall

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

The Town Council has approved sending a Fair Housing Bylaw draft to the Economic Subcommittee, but some feel it overlaps with ongoing work by other agencies.

The bylaw, which was drafted by Councilors Darius Gregory and Andrew Shanahan, is similar to one adopted by the Town of Norton, and would help those struggling to stay in North Attleborough, such as seniors and veterans.

Gregory, who heads the Economic Sustainability Subcommittee, said it is important to keep the conversation going once it’s begun. Other housing-related matters he’s proposed include the creation of a fund to assist redevelopment of impaired properties and an in-depth review of available land.

I think when we get in the habit of conversation, things can be lost in translation,” said Gregory at the council’s virtual meeting on Feb. 22. “We made this measure, now it’s tracked and can’t get lost.”

Gregory said that future discussions would involve all related departments, such as the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

I talked to the town planner, she said this is something we need,” said Gregory. “We’re ready to work with this and shape it for the best benefit for the town.”

The council passed a motion to forward the proposal to the subcommittee. However, Councilor JoAnn Cathcart said that the town has already approved a $20,000 transfer to hire the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SERPEDD) to work on the town’s new Master Plan. Thiss will include a housing production plan and will be completed by 2022. Given, this, she felt best to table the matter until SERPEDD’s work is done.

I don’t know why this committee, why they should be doing this before all this work that we’re paying for is done,” said Cathcart. “I just see this, yes, as a great idea, it’s so ambitious.”

Shanahan said that he and Gregory know the work being done by SERPEDD and that a lot of conversations will need to happen once the Master Plan is done. He said that having these discussions now will make the process easier.

It’s a good opportunity to have people from the various groups who matter (to housing),” he said.

Gregory see this as a simple conversation between the people who have a role in housing and can offer their input. He said this bylaw has a lot of correlation with generating revenue for the community. He said that talks with the planning and zoning boards should have been done first, but they would be involved in future meetings.

I’m married to the outcome, not the concept,” said Gregory.

The rest of the council was mixed in their comments. Councilor Michael Lennox felt it was a situation of “the cart before the horse,” He said that the matter belonged to the planning and zoning boards. He added that this proposal seemed like a zoning bylaw, which are under the purview of the Planning Board. Councilor John Simmons suggested getting an update on the progress of the Master Plan

We took the first step, put it on paper and now we figure out where to go,” said Simmons.