Erving Town Meeting voters back Care Drive housing project

Moderator Richard Peabody stands behind the podium during Erving’s Annual Town Meeting at Erving Elementary School on Wednesday as Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith, left, and Selectboard member James Loynd, middle, look on.

Moderator Richard Peabody stands behind the podium during Erving’s Annual Town Meeting at Erving Elementary School on Wednesday as Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith, left, and Selectboard member James Loynd, middle, look on. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Daniel Hammock, who sits on the Erving Finance Committee, speaks at the microphone as a citizen during Erving’s Annual Town Meeting at Erving Elementary School on Wednesday.

Daniel Hammock, who sits on the Erving Finance Committee, speaks at the microphone as a citizen during Erving’s Annual Town Meeting at Erving Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-09-2024 5:10 PM

ERVING — The town is one step closer to affordable housing on Care Drive after residents voted Wednesday to authorize the Selectboard to lease, convey or otherwise dispose of the property eyed for the development.

Voters at Annual Town Meeting also gave the Selectboard their blessing to work out the terms and conditions of an agreement it “deems to be in the best interest of the town.” Erving has secured from Rural Development Inc., a nonprofit created by the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, a $15.6 housing proposal that involves building 26 units of housing, including age-restricted senior housing for those 62 and up, while also providing multi-generational workforce housing in two other buildings. The project will likely be completed by 2028.

“It was actually a recommendation in the 2002 Master Plan, that we needed senior housing,” Senior Housing Committee member Jacquelyn Boyden told voters inside Erving Elementary School’s gymnasium on Wednesday.

The first floor of some of the townhouses will be handicapped accessible, she noted.

“Some of you are going to ask, ‘Why didn’t you just sell it outright?’” Boyden said. “Well, we’re kind of picky here and … we wanted to make sure that the town still had … some control over what was happening to the housing units.”

Boyden said the town will lease its land to RDI for the project for 99 years.

“It’s still our land … and then they build the building,” she explained. “And it’s their building and they run it, because we don’t want to be in the landlord business, right? So that’s what this is about.”

Boyden also mentioned that RDI will pay taxes on the property.

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“That’s good news,” Moderator Richard Peabody said.

Town Meeting brought out 145 voters, or 11% of the checklist, who also adopted the proposed $15.2 million town operating budget, which represents a 4.5% increase.

The only article that was defeated Wednesday pertained to pay increases for the tax collector, town clerk and town treasurer. Residents were asked to increase the tax collector’s salary by $2,126, to $22,456, the town clerk’s salary by $3,174.60, to $30,130.60, and the treasurer’s pay from $63,702 to $73,264.80. Treasurer Jennifer Eichorn stood up to defend the proposal and explain what her job entails, including the handling of all benefits administration.

A voice vote was deemed too close to call and a count was requested. The vote was 77-59 and the measure failed because it did not reach the required two-thirds majority.

Adoption of the warrant’s final article, as written, would have appropriated $3.7 million to demolish structures at the former International Paper Mill site at 8 Papermill Road. But voters at Monday’s election rejected the necessary Proposition 2½ debt exclusion that would have supplemented a $600,000 grant the town received for demolition. To pass a debt-exclusion vote, it must get approval at both Town Meeting and at the ballot box.

In light of Monday’s election results, Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith proposed taking no action on the final article, which residents opted to do after some discussion.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.