Lenox Special Town Meeting Approves Housing Project

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The two-third majority needed to provide the option was easily reached.

LENOX, Mass. — The development of a 50-unit housing project at the intersection of Housatonic Street and Route 7 is moving forward following town meeting's approval Tuesday night.
In a 107-28 vote, an article to grant an option to the Community Development of South Berkshires to purchase the former Bartoni property was passed. The option gives the CDC the ability to move forward with securing financing for the project.
"Once the option purchase is granted, the CDC can obtain finances from state sources," said Town Manager Christopher Ketchen.
The town purchased the land in 2011 for $600,000, using Community Preservation Act funds, with the intent to increase the stock of affordable housing. The town later selected the CDC to be the developer.
The option allows the CDC to purchase the property at the $600,000 price.. The CDC is looking to build 22 affordable housing units alongside 28 market rate units. The entire project is expected to cost $20 million.
"These units will be 100 percent ownership housing," Ketchen said, saying there will not be any rental options.
Some voters questioned the language of the contract with concerns that the town may not end up with the affordable units they are hoping to get.
Timothy Geller, executive director of the CDC, said there will be a deed restriction on the land that uses a formula to set income restrictions. The formula accounts for future changes in the market. The deed restriction would last 30 years.
"There is a provision in that equation that goes with the deed restriction that allows the owner to accrue some equity," Geller said.

Timothy Geller, executive director of the CDC, said the plan strikes a balance allowing the owners to gain equity while still keeping the units affordable.

One resident questioned what the town would lose in total funds if the CDC uses the option. Ketchen said so far the town has accrued $19,000 in interest and if the property is sold before September, an additional $6,300 would be avoided.
Ketchen added that once the land is sold to he CDC, the entire $600,000 would immediately come back to the town.
"It would be full payment due at the time of closing," he said.
Voters unanimously approved a second article to accept land from Sawmill Reality Inc. The land was part of an agreement with that company in the Stoneledge Road subdivision.
"We are picking up five acres of land," said Selectman David Roche.
Voters also approved using $10,000 in free cash for engineering on Baker's Pond. The money will only be spent if it is coupled with $125,000 from the state. According to Selectman Ken Fowler, the state is currently debating the expenditure on the pond and if passed, the town would want to have the design completed.
"We are asking for $10,000 to leverage $125,000 from the state," Ketchen said.
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