Norwell Homeowners Association Tries To Block Affordable Housing
NORWELL – A homeowners association is trying to block the construction of more affordable housing in the city by pushing a citizens’ petition that could turn a plot designated for housing into protected land.
Norwell’s Community Housing Trust will soon be asking for proposals to develop 6.3 acres of land into housing units, which could include up to 24 units spread over three buildings.
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The Community Housing Trust submitted plans to issue a request for proposals to the Norwell Board of Selectmen in January and, shortly thereafter, the Wildcat Hill Homeowners Association submitted a citizens’ petition to move the plot of land into conservation, which would block the project. The association represents 46 houses.
City administrator Peter Morin said Brian Carroll, representing the homeowners association, submitted an extensive request for documents on January 27, two weeks after the initial meeting, seeking emails, text messages and other documents between the selectors, dating back to the beginning of last year, then hired a lawyer on February 15 to represent them.
City attorney Robert Galvin said if the citizens’ petition passes at this year’s town hall, scheduled for May 3, it would give elected officials the additional opportunity to push the land into a state of preservation, but would not require them to dispose of the land. Since 2004, elected officials have been able to transfer the land for affordable housing purposes.
Brian Carroll, representing the homeowners association, said at a meeting Wednesday evening that the group wanted to keep the property as open land so they could continue to use it as part of their trail system.
A map included in Wildcat Hill’s brochure for potential residents shows that the land is not part of the project and refers to it as a “parcel of open space”.
Community Housing Trust chairman Gregg McBride said the plot was identified as a potential space for affordable housing at the 2004 town meeting, well before construction of the Wildcat Hill homes began in 2014.
McBride said the city’s open space goals and affordable housing goals can conflict. Although the parcel would add a small amount of land to the city’s open space goals, it could also add a few units to the city’s affordable housing goals.
As of December 2020, Norwell had only 180 units that count towards its affordable housing stock, or 4.9% of the total. To block Chapter 40B projects from other parts of the city, Norwell would need to reach 10%, although that number will likely increase when 2020 census data is released.
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While most Wildcat Hill residents complained about the loss of conservation land, one resident, Dan Cox, explicitly said he was worried about people who would rent affordable housing.
“The lottery is a lottery, so you wouldn’t know who lives there, no one would, and then the next meeting we start talking about police officers, firefighters and teachers,” he said.
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Contact reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at [email protected]