HANSON — COVID-19 vaccination staging plans and a discussion with town counsel regarding a proposed 40B affordable housing development were the focus of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
The meeting was conducted by Vice Chairman Matt Dyer in the absence of Chairman Kenny Mitchell.
Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr., outlined the town’s efforts to tackle the pandemic, including a recent testing site operation and meetings with the Board of Health and Senior Center Director Mary Collins to address the needs of the town’s vulnerable seniors.
“We started the process in mid-December to allow us to become a MIS account so we can obtain vaccines and administer them,” he said. “It took a while.”
The department received vaccine to provide the first round of shots to 50 first-responders on Jan.21. He said, however, that getting more information from the state has been difficult.
Vaccines were ordered for elders age 75 and older, but were advised the town would not receive those vaccines for a couple of weeks.
“We still went on with our plan and I put the order in anyway,” he said. “I’m happy to announce that we did receive some vaccines today and, working with Mary Collins and Kathy Clark from Meetinghouse Lane, we’ve identified our vulnerable population — over 75 and members of the community that would need some assistance in order to sign up for these vaccines.”
That process was anticipated to be complete by Feb. 3 so people could apply.
“We’re going to continue to order vaccines weekly and offer clinics, but we don’t know how much we’ll get,” Thompson said, adding that the added work in taking on the vaccination and clinic process is a lot of extra work for his department. “It’s best for us to wait until we get that vaccine in hand and then put that information out and have a clinic within two to three days.”
Dyer expressed concern that the 75-and-older age range is a group in which not everyone has a computer or knows how to navigate on one. He asked if there was a phone number to call.
Thompson suggested that the Senior Center would be the best place to call in that case, but that the Facebook link was “very simple” to use. He is also working on conducting a vaccine clinic at Hanson Middle School for residents over age 75, hoping it would be scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5.
A lot of people are also going through their primary care physicians or attending large-scale clinics at Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park.
On or about Feb. 15, Marshfield is also conducting a vaccination clinic at the Marshfield Fair
“I appreciate you going to bat for our elderly folks,” Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said, noting that it is a difficult task to take on for the fire chief. “I thank you and the rest of the team that helped make this happen.”
Thompson said the department is using CARES Act funds to pay for the expense of conducting clinics.
He said the workload and expense may make if difficult for the Fire Department to take on the responsibility of vaccinating the whole town.
“It’s going to be all about availability,” he said.
A contentious exchange sparked the discussion on the proposed 40B development by Cushing Trail Realty Trust off Spring Street. Town Counsel Jay Talerman attended the virtual meeting to provide legal advice during the discussion.
Selectmen voted to issue a letter of support if flaws in the plan can be adequately addressed, which Talerman said is not out of the ordinary for such projects.
Select board input is a regular feature of the 40B eligibility letter approval process before a project proceeds to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Talerman said.
He said feedback from land use boards has so far included issues of housing diversity, proximity to Commuter Rail, walkability and open space, proximity to a capped landfill, water supply, wetland and environmental impact, a few design concerns, and a placeholder on the developers’ credentials.
Water Commissioner Don Howard said no one has appeared before the Water Department to find out if water service is possible.
“Hanson doesn’t have any water main down Spring Street,” Howard said. “I don’t know where they’re going to get the water.”
Talerman said that concern has been raised.
“In this application, the applicant says they already have water on-site,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “But that is not the case.”
Town Administrator John Stanbrook read a letter from Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff, an associate of Talerman’s.
The development plans a mix of 40 two- and three-bedroom condominium units, with 10 of them made available under Chapter 40B a affordable units. The project contains no handicapped-accessible units.
“Though the application presented is in its preliminary stages, the board requests that the project comply with the housing production plan,” the letter Feodoroff drafted on behalf of the Board of Selectmen stated.
“Over the weekend, residents have reached out, voicing their concerns,” Dyer said. “Many have concerns … related to proximity to the landfill and the Factory Pond site.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett is also concerned about the absence of septic plans for a development in a town without sewers, as well as a lack of clarity on plans for “amenities” and location concerning affordable units.
“I certainly was not prepared for the public outcry,” Selectman Wes Blauss said, noting he is unaware of the history of the proposal. “That surprised me. … I’m not against the concept, but I’m not really sure if Spring Street is the best place for all these units.”
Developer William Cushing said he was not attending to talk about stormwater, but said the town’s regulations — more restrictive than the state’s — have been met.
“A lot of these things are going to be checked off during that [ZBA] phase,” Cushing said. “Every unit is going to be consistently spread out and not close to the landfill.”
Amenities for all units — affordable as well as market rate — will be the same. He also said that, unlike the bulk of condo projects in Hanson aimed at the over 55 market, these units are meant for families.
He also said he has water access through Glenwood Place and is planning to pay to get it to the site.
“It’s not a complete plan, but I would call it a really good concept,” Cushing said. “At this time, to talk about storm water and other issues, is preliminary.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the board is doing what they were elected to do.
“I will continue to be concerned about the things that I articulated,” she said. “I’m hopeful that you will address them. But I will tell you that you ought to take another look at your application.”
She indicated that the application indicates septic is in place.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also objected to what she characterized as a disrespectful tone to Cushing’s comments.