Joint Committee To Review Housing Projects

by Alan Pollock

CHATHAM – The select board and the affordable housing trust will jointly review and decide on the proposals to create housing on the town-owned Buckley and Meetinghouse Road properties, according to Town Manager Jill Goldsmith.

Two potential developers responded to the town’s invitation to submit proposals to build housing on the Meetinghouse Road land, and three replied to the RFP for the Buckley land. The details of those proposals, including the building types and the number of units, remain secret pending review by the town. The number of units proposed for each parcel has caused a rift among some members of the two boards, with some favoring higher density development and others advocating for fewer units to preserve neighborhood character.

A statement released by Goldsmith last week indicated that, as the town’s chief procurement officer, she has established a 10-member housing proposals evaluation committee composed of all the members of the select board and the housing trust. They will meet jointly in public session, as required by state law.

Their first meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, May 15, after press time. It was scheduled to take place in executive session; town officials say that releasing the details of the proposals now would violate state procurement laws. Another joint executive session is scheduled for June 5, and after that time, members of the joint committee will individually evaluate the five housing proposals, submitting their evaluation sheets directly to Goldsmith, who will “compile the results of the evaluations and prepare a report including recommendations for each of the two properties to be made to the [housing trust] and the select board jointly,” the statement reads. The scoring will be released to the public, she said at Monday’s annual town meeting.

The following week, on June 11, Goldsmith will present her recommendations to the joint committee in public, at which time they “will jointly select the entity or entities with whom the town of Chatham will work to develop housing at each of the two properties.”

Responding to the town's request for proposals for the Meetinghouse Road property were the Community Development Partnership and Pennrose. Both developers also submitted proposals for the Buckley land at 1533 Main St., along with the Housing Assistance Corporation. Boston-based Pennrose is currently redeveloping the former Cape Cod 5 headquarters in Orleans into 62 housing units, and may be chosen to develop the former Governor Prence property in Orleans. The Community Development Partnership, based in Orleans, built and operates Thankful Chase's Pathway in North Harwich, 12 rental units that are among some 92 rental homes it operates. Hyannis-based Housing Assistance Corporation built or helped with two rental housing developments in Brewster, Well's Court and Brewster Woods, two of around a dozen developments on Cape Cod. While Pennrose is a for-profit developer, the CDP and HAC are both nonprofits.

The joint committee apparently represents a power-sharing arrangement between the select board and housing trust. Members of both bodies have stressed that there is no competition for control over the two housing projects, but have sparred repeatedly with one another in several public discussions. Town counsel and staff had urged the two bodies to designate a single entity with oversight and review authority for purposes of efficiency.

The specific number of units in each of the two housing projects are contained in the proposals received by the town, but are not yet public. A consultant for the town proposed a concept for as many as 60 units on the Buckley land and 40 units at Meetinghouse Road, though the RFP did not include a cap on the number of units.