Housing Talk Causing Concern

The Rochester Select Board Monday night unanimously approved a new member of Police Chief Robert Smalls’ administrative team.

The board endorsed chief Small’s recommendation that Donald Kemmet be appointed a new Rochester Police Department lieutenant. Small noted a professional interview panel whittled four candidates for the job down to Kemmet, who comes to the new position with 25 years of experience in Rochester police work.

It was only the first action of a jam-packed meeting agenda.

Representative William Straus and Senator Michael Rodrigues were in attendance to discuss the state’s new housing regulations that could require the town to build multi-family housing because of the town’s proximity to South Middleboro’s MBTA facilities.

The Select Board members said they were worried about what this regulation would require of a small town like Rochester. “We don’t have any idea how this would go and how we would deal with it,” Select Board Chairman Woody Hartley said.

Town Planner Nancy Durfee asked how the town will find the right location for such a multi-family housing development, “with the kind of road infrastructure we have, the water resources we have to protect? … How do we make that kind of housing work here?”

Straus assured the Select Board that the town should not yet worry about a new regulation that he and Rodrigues know is ambiguous and in the long run may not even apply to Rochester.

He explained the focus of the regulation is for “transit-oriented” development. The goal is to prepare towns for population increases due to new transit-system infrastructure from a zoning standpoint. It asks for a certain density of housing with a half-mile of a new MBTA Commuter Rail station “if applicable.”

Town Administrator Glen Cannon said an increase in building/housing density would “crush” the Town of Rochester.

Straus said these are the kinds of questions and concerns that have yet to be answered but said state officials are listening to the input they have received so far. He said the specific guidelines for the new regulation will not be released until September.

In other action, retiring Plumb Library Director Gail Roberts introduced the Select Board to her replacement, Jennifer Woodward. A resident of Bourne, Woodward last worked as assistant director of the Falmouth Library District. Woodward has been a librarian for 30 years. She will become Rochester’s new library director at the end of this week. Roberts is retiring after 15 years in the Rochester position.

The board also approved a schedule change for the Rochester Country Fair. The fair will be held this year for one day only, on Saturday, October 1, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

The board also reviewed two water-related proposals. A Rochester facility that repairs and rebuilds MBTA train cars needs 914 gallons a day from the town’s Wareham water reserve, which is 100,000 gallons per day. The board concluded that MBTA spokesperson Jody Ray needs to work with the town Water Commission and the Wareham Water Department officials to work out the details before the Select Board will approve such a plan.

Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School wants to plan a connection to public water, specifically the Annie Maxim House connection to Middleboro water as part of its proposed renovation plans. Old Colony District Superintendent Aaron Polansky said the school will be entering the MSBA Eligibility Period on October 3 for 270 days. At the end of the 270-day period, Old Colony will find out if the school will be invited into feasibility.

The Rochester Select Board scheduled its next meeting for Monday, July 18, at 6:00 p.m.

Rochester Select Board

By Michael J. DeCicco

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