The Board of Selectmen last week voted 3-1 to approve a purchase and sales agreement for the 50-unit project that will be developed by the Boston-based non-profit The Community Builders Inc. (TCB). Of the total 50 units, 40 will be set aside for occupants earning less than 80 percent of the Westport median income. That is considerably more than the 30 percent minimum the town had sought in its initial solicitation for proposals.
The vote was cheered by the Westport Affordable Housing Trust which has worked toward the project for a decade.
Vice Chairwoman Liz Collins said the development will put the town closer to a state requirement that at least 10 percent of housing in town meet affordable guidelines. She called it a “fantastic project … I’m delighted to finally be at this point.” The only thing that might have made her happier would have been for the Selectmen to have been unanimous in their decision, she added.
And Brian Corey praised the per-unit price cost as being well below what a for-profit developer would have charged.
But Selectman Michael Sullivan, who cast the only no vote, said the town could have struck a better deal.
He noted that the town purchased the 27 acres with $750,000 provided by the Affordable Housing Authority yet will get only $58,000 in return.
Under terms of the project, TCB will also repay a $206,000 Massachusetts Development Finance Agency loan to Westport for cleanup of the property.
Selectmen Antone Vieira Jr., Richard Spirlet and Craig Dutra voted in favor of the agreement. Steven Ouellette was absent.
Ms. Collins said she believes that Westport residents will be pleased with the look of the development.
“TCB does excellent work, they are very highly regarded,” she said.
The deal with TCB, worked out “over a long period of time and in a very open and transparent way” was, Ms. Collins believes, “the best we could have achieved.” She said other developers came down for a look, praised the concept, but ultimately said it was not financially feasible. One proposed getting local Community Preservation funds to help with construction costs, a suggestion that was not embraced.
Ms. Collins said the need for affordable housing in Westport is considerable. While the state requires that 10 percent of housing be affordable, “In Westport it was about 3.7 percent awhile ago and has been falling from there,” she said.
The former farm property is bounded by woodlands to the west, the Noquochoke River to the south and east and Route 177 to the north. It is within an area that is primarily residential but also close to retail shopping.
Although the Affordable Housing Trust has shown a rendering of what the project will look like, members said that the illustration is outdated. The actual appearance, as planned by TCB, should be available later this summer. At that point, a construction timetable is also expected.