According to Marion Affordable Housing Trust member Nancy McFadden, the focus group recently held by the Barrett Planning Group for Housing Community Engagement Services lacked focus for lack of a meeting leader.
McFadden and fellow AHT member Norm Hills nonetheless worked with AHT Chairperson Terri Santos, who could not attend the focus group, to identify key points from a conversation meant to influence Marion’s Housing Production Plan.
The January 11 AHT agenda called for the trust to discuss its goals and vision, and right now the future of Lockheed Martin’s property adjacent to the Cushing Community Center is at the forefront of speculation.
Hills and McFadden estimated that approximately 10 people attended the focus group that met with Judy Barrett and went over ideas about Lockheed Martin.
Santos said feedback from the Planning Board, of which Hills is also a member, indicates that Lockheed Martin is to be kept more light industrial and business in purpose rather than housing.
Zoning is obviously a question, as Hills explained. Part of the Lockheed Martin property is zoned for light industry and part residential. “There’s no mixed use in Marion,” he said.
Hills pointed out that the front half of the property is developed and the back half is not developed, leaving the town with a two-part question as to whether someone will be willing to take over the front half of the property and what can Marion do with the back half. “We’re waiting for them to come back to us with options,” he said.
While there is obvious interest in finding Marion’s senior population with alternatives to houses they can no longer afford or take care of, Hills said that the industrial park at Lockheed Martin may be so old that it might be worth demolishing and starting over. “Nobody’s beating down the doors trying to come in and put an industrial capability in there. Most of the people that work there don’t live in Marion,” he said.
Santos reiterated that “people need places to live” and solicited suggestions, while noting a rumored benefactor’s interest.
Hills said the Open Space Acquisition Commission should become involved.
“Somebody said they could buy it, but again, we don’t know what’s going to happen with it. By the same token, we don’t know what Lockheed Martin’s doing either,” said Hills. “The end of October is getting close for them, a lot of stuff they have to move out of there.”
In discussing general goals for the AHT, Santos told the members that the trust has been asked to report to the Select Board.
“The (Housing Production Plan) is going to be the answer to what’s going on,” said Hills, who also serves as chairman of the Marion Select Board. “It’s going to take Town Counsel to help us figure it out.”
What many in town are looking for is housing for people with moderate and fixed incomes so the focus has been on proposed, mixed-used, village-style developments.
Another entity that has been involved is the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD). Marion was supposed to deliver information to SRPEDD in December but was granted a contract extension to June.
Strategies that emerged from the focus group included the pursuit of top-priority zoning amendments, evaluation of methods to incentivize senior development, negotiation of perpetual deed restrictions, and coordination of training and education for AHT membership and residents.
Santos wrapped up the meeting by asking the membership to think of goals that would contribute to a five-year plan for the town.
In the reorganization of the trust, former chair Casey Cole-Vieira was named vice chair, and Cynthia Thomas was named clerk. Tangi Thomas had been clerk but relinquished the role.
The next meeting of the Marion Affordable Housing Trust is scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, at 6:00 pm.
Marion Affordable Housing Trust
By Mick Colageo