HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Feb. 23 heard a review of priority projects aimed at easing the effects of potential weather-related hazards.
A representative from the Old Colony Regional Planning Commission reviewed a vulnerability preparedness grant application process and is seeking feedback from residents. Top hazards already identified by community members are: floods and drought; extreme winds and storms, fire and extreme temperatures, which led to the creation of a risk matrix of facilities in town that could be impacted by the hazards and how they could be made more resilient.
Workshops on the process have been ongoing since October 2021.
The public is asked to call Laurie Muncy at 508-583-1883 Ext. 210 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to offer comments on the presentation, which may be viewed on Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV’s YouTube site.
Priority projects identified were continued efforts to identify and address flood-prone areas; improve a warming/cooling center for seniors lacking a backup generator for power; pursuing alternative or supplemental water supplies; increasing the town’s water storage capacity; development of a culvert maintenance and repair plan and a new highway facility.
The board also heard a review of ongoing 40B developments in town.
Hanson currently has 4.5 percent of its 10-percent affordable housing goal, to be consistent with local needs. The town needs 357 total units to meet that goal, and now has 160 affordable units.
“At our last meeting we talked about a 40B project extensively,” Town Administrator John Stanbrook said. “I just wanted to give an update on some of the other 40B projects that are in town.”
One of those facilities is Dunham Farm condominiums for people age 55 and over. Built in the 1990s as affordable units in perpetuity, the original plan called for 52 units, with 28 built aimed at a market rate of $321,000, 12 of which were affordable. There are now 24 more units being added (market rate $429,000), with only one intended as an affordable unit because enough were built in the original portion to cover the required ratio.
Another project, Depot Village on Phillips Street, will have 45 total units when completed — 12 affordable. The three-story building will have no age restriction.
“Hanson will be credited with all 45 units as affordable, because they are rental units,” Stanbrook said. It is expected to be move-in ready in January 2022.
Ridders’ development at 280 Liberty St., with 57 townhouse units planned to be built starting in about four weeks, includes 13 affordable units with a 55-and-older age restriction.
The three developments will bring Hanson to within half-way to it’s goal — 186 units of the 357 needed.
“We’re not close to the 10 percent yet,” Stanbrook said. “If we only put aside 25 percent of every 100, it will take another 1,000 units in order to get to the 10-percent goal.”
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said it seems there is a misconception that the board can stop 40B housing from coming to Hanson.
“I think it’s important that people recognize … that the town needs to basically demonstrate that it’s on track to have 10 percent affordable housing,” she said. “We’re far from that.”
What selectmen can do, FitzGerald-Kemmett said, is articulate their concerns and work with the land use boards, so the developments are in keeping with the character and nature of the town.
“What we can’t do is stop 40B,” she said. “There is no way to stop 40B.”
Selectmen also discussed the ongoing issue of under-billing for water services to the W-H Regional School District by the Whitman Water Department.
“This is kind of a long-standing matter that got on our radar screen close to a year ago,” said town general counsel Jay Talerman. “We’re kind of odd man out, so we don’t really have that much of a stake in it, although there is some money at stake.”
Talerman said Whitman, which forgot to bill the school district for water supplied to the high school, for whatever reason, now wants to collect. He became involved in the issue because Hanson would be obliged to pay some portion of that bill, and the school district’s counsel thought he could be helpful with bargaining.
He said that among the things he pointed out to Whitman officials is that the law only allows going back six years for payment — not the 15 that is owed.
“Second, we’re not going to pay it,” Talerman said, unless any payments are spread out over time in the operating budget. About a year ago the bill was negotiated down to the six years, or about $185,000.
“It appears that’s been accepted by Whitman … and they’ve also agreed to spread it out over three years,” Talerman said. “The remaining question is, how is it paid?”
He said the school district has the authority to pay it through the assessment and does not recommend taking it out of other funds. The town generally pays water bills from the assessment, which he recommended Hanson’s position should be as it is not a principal part of the discussion, but only a party to paying a portion of the bill.
Selectmen agreed with the approach — with FitzGerald Kemmett reminding the board Hanson would only be paying 40 percent of whatever the final bill is.