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Marion Election and Meeting Results

Marion Special Town Meeting

September 22, 2008

By Kenneth J. Souza

A Special Town Meeting for the Town of Marion was called to order in the auditorium of Sippican School on Monday, September 22 at 7:04 pm by Town Moderator David B. Titus, having noted the presence of a quorum of some 100 voters.

All four articles on the warrant were related to the proposed expansion of the Little Neck Village (LNV) senior housing complex to give the Marion Affordable Housing Trust (MAHT) permission to proceed with the winning proposal submitted by EA Fish Associates, Inc.

Under ARTICLE S1, voters were first asked to authorize the Board of Selectmen to purchase 1.3 acres of property located at 330 Wareham Road for a sum of money not to exceed $225,000 to be used for the so-called Little Neck Village expansion project.

"This land is adjacent to the town-owned parcel of senior housing at Little Neck Village," said Selectman Roger Blanchette. "Article 1 will not require any additional allocation, as the funds are available to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust via a previous Town Meeting."

At this point, MAHT Chairman Reg Foster provided an introduction and overview to all four articles on the warrant.

"According to the 2005 Marion Affordable Housin Plan, the greatest need for affordable housing in Marion is for the growing elderly population," Mr. Foster said. "Significantly, the over-65 cohort has grown by 238 percent from 381 in 1970 to 907 people in 2000. It is projected that senior Marion residents will grow another 37 percent by 2025."

Having previously presented a similar expansion proposal to Town Meeting voters back in May, Mr. Foster noted the Marion Affordable Housing Trust has attempted to address the concerns raised by residents at that time. Since then, a new proposal presented by EA Fish, Inc. has been accepted for a 48-unit, seniors-only housing project on the existing Little Neck site.

"The facility will be brought completely up-to-date, it will be ADA-compliant and handicap-accessible," Mr. Foster said. "The other benefit is by taking matters into our own hands, we are gaining some immunity to unfriendly 40B projects that might be forced on Marion."

One of the big advantages to this proposal, according to Mr. Foster, is that no additional burden will be placed on the Marion taxpayers. The $525,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds already allocated and available for the project would be used to garner $7.7 million for the project -- so every $1 in CPA funds would bring in $15 in outside funding.

Turning to the articles at hand, Mr. Foster noted ARTICLE S1 would ask voters to authorize the Board of Selectmen to purchase a 1.3-acre strip of land adjacent to the existing Little Neck Village facility for $225,000 with CPA funds approved at previous Town Meetings.

ARTICLE S2 would ask voters to transfer the 1.3-acre strip to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust for use of building affordable rental housing for occupants at least 62 years old.

Under ARTICLE S3 voters would be asked to transfer the existing Little Neck Village site on 8.6 acres of land to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust for use of building affordable rental housing for occupants at least 62 years old.

Finally, ARTICLE S4, which would have granted an easement along Hermitage Road, will be passed over. It was put on the warrant merely as a contingency, but there isn't any need for it now, Mr. Foster said.

But current Little Neck Village resident Helen Westergard made a presentation expressing her concern over the effect the project would have on the natural habitat and wildlife in the area. She also noted the proposed ingress and egress options for Little Neck Village need to be fine-tuned, since there have been about 17 accidents along Route 6 in the immediate area over the last two years.

"The work on the project has been ongoing, and I applaud much of what has been accomplished," Ms. Westergard said. "But I cannot support the project until these issues are resolved. I don't feel comfortable passing the project at this stage."

"I guess I have one remaining concern," said Sally Madison. "I'm concerned about the (rents) the newer people will have to pay coming in to Little Neck Village. I didn't realize that the town was going to get a benefit of about $58,000 and I wonder why this couldn't be used to take care of those rent increases."

Based on rental rates deemed affordable by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, 12 of the LNV units will be rented to applicants earning no more than 30 percent of the average median income and the other 36 units will be rented to applicants earning no more than 60 percent median income.

Currently, those earning 30 percent would pay $427 a month for a one person, one bedroom unit and $513 a month for a two person, two bedroom unit. Those in the 60 percent tier would pay $855 a month for a one person, one bedroom unit; $1,026 a month for a two person, two bedroom unit.

But existing Little Neck Village resident Dot Burrill suggested those who have issues with the rental structure can always apply for state assistance and this is one of those details that can certainly be worked out at a later time.

"We have received nothing but cooperation, people have listened to us, and every one of the concerns that we've brought to their attention has been answered," Ms. Burrill said. "Yes, there are some issues that still need to be addressed, but I have every confidence in our town boards. I urge all of you to vote 'yes' on the warrant articles."

After a motion to "move the question" was approved, ARTICLE S1 passed via the required two-thirds vote.

Under ARTICLE S2, voters were asked to transfer the 1.3-acre strip to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust for use of building affordable rental housing for occupants at least 62 years old.

ARTICLE S2 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE S3, voters were asked to transfer the existing Little Neck Village site on 8.6 acres of land to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust for use of building affordable rental housing for occupants at least 62 years old.

ARTICLE S3 passed unanimously.

ARTICLE S4 was passed over.

There being no further articles to consider, the Special Town Meeting was adjourned at 8:02 pm.