By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 12/19, The Fairhaven Selectboard discussed the move by the Stratford Capital Group to ask for $325,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the restoration of the Oxford School building. SCG has signed a purchase and sale agreement to buy the building for $325,000 to construct 63 housing units for seniors 62+.
All three Selectboard members said they were not aware of the SCG’s intent to ask for the purchase price back from the town’s Community Preservation Committee. CPC funds are collected from a surcharge on property taxes and can be used for open space and recreation, historic preservation and affordable housing.
The state matches a percentage of the funds, but the match has been going down since the program began, a point Selectboard member Daniel Freitas pointed out right away.
“It doesn’t mean we have to give it to them,” said Mr. Freitas.
Town Planner and Economic Development Director Bill Roth told the board that SCG needed to show community support in order to get the grant money it is counting on for the project. Mr. Roth also said that company representatives said they had planned on applying for grants from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), a federal grant program for affordable housing, but then realized the town was not part of the HOME program.
Mr. Freitas expressed doubt that a company that touted itself as experienced in these kinds of projects would not know the town was not part of the HOME program.
Mr. Roth also said he was looking at possibly applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that could be used to knock down the 1950s addition on the site.
The reality is, said Mr. Roth, that there are $1.2 million CPC requests and about $500,000 available.
Selectboard member Bob Espindola, who negotiated the purchase and sale deal with the company and has been in ongoing negotiations with them on the project, emphasized that the town was blindsided by the request.
“Absolutely never. This never came up,” said Mr. Espindola. “I was very upset at the way this unfolded.”
To add insult to injury, some of the materials submitted by SCG said “Eastham” instead of Fairhaven, while making the same argument for the funds.
“These guys do this for a living,” said Mr. Freitas, and commented on the Eastham mistake. “They’ve obviously done this before.”
According to the provision of the P&S, if the company does not get the grants from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), they will not go forward with the project.
Resident Doug Brady did not seem so upset with that prospect.
“We’re giving away the building,” he said, if they give the CPC funds.
Mr. Roth, however, noted that the town will have a million dollar liability and a rotting building if they let the deal sink.
“I think we, as a community, need to look at these buildings,” he said.
He noted that he is the one who is required to check the building monthly and is called out when the alarm goes off, at all hours.
He said it would be in the “million dollar range” to demolish the Oxford School building and the 1950s addition.
“This one really bothers me,” said Ann Richard, noting that she had been to a lot of meetings and has followed the process closely. “We’re basically giving the building away because it’s a liability to the town.”
She said if the town can get CDBG funds to demolish the building for SCG, then “why not for us?”
The board will ask SCG representatives attend a Selectboard meeting to discuss their request.
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