A long-vacant property on an 88-acre town water supply reserve in East Falmouth has been raised as a possible site for affordable housing. However, some town officials said during last week’s Falmouth Board of Selectmen meeting, Monday, August 5, that the small property off Crooked Pond Drive is not an ideal location for that purpose.
Nevertheless, a group including Karen L. Bissonnette, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Trust, is not giving up on the affordable housing idea and is gathering more information about costs for the next selectmen’s meeting Monday, August 19.
Assistant town manager Peter Johnson-Staub and director of public works Raymond A. Jack recommended at last week’s meeting that selectmen proceed with the Town Meeting-funded plan to demolish the house and construct a municipal well on the site.
Selectmen did not vote on the decision, and commenters, including Falmouth Housing Trust staff, encouraged selectmen to hear new information before doing so.
The group with Ms. Bissonette met at the property Monday, August 12, to consider housing possibilities.
“We’re hoping to save a property that someone could live in and that we have the resources to save,” Ms. Bissonnette said in a call, noting the group would provide more details Monday.
In introducing the situation during last week’s meeting, town manager Julian M. Suso said Falmouth acquired the property, as well as the reserve land where it sits, in 1987 for municipal purposes and/or water resource protection.
Town Meeting member Michael Duffany contacted the town about alternative uses for the property, including as affordable housing, Mr. Suso said.
During his presentation, Mr. Johnson-Staub said this situation illustrates a balance between Falmouth’s need for affordable housing and its stewardship of its water supply.
“There was already an abandoned house on the property in 1987, the Baker house, which is less than 1,000 square feet,” Mr. Johnson-Staub said. “Of its current condition, it was very well constructed with some really high-quality timber. The interior is essentially gutted through a combination of vandalism and neglect, so it would require a pretty complete rehab.”
Town officials met recently to discuss the property. The group included Mr. Johnson-Staub, Mr. Jack, town planner Thomas Bott and affordable housing staff.
The group concluded the site “is not a great location for affordable housing,” the assistant town manager said.
“It’s a single isolated unit on a fairly narrow, unpaved, private road, so it raises some access concerns. It’s not convenient to services,” he said. “Certainly we have constructed affordable housing in locations other than town centers, but it tends to work better if there’s a better road and a higher concentration of housing.”
A unit on the property would not be feasible for rental housing, Mr. Johnson-Staub said, noting that the town’s affordable housing needs assessment showed that 85 percent of the need is for rental units and 15 percent home ownership.
For this combination of reasons, Mr. Johnson-Staub recommended that the town proceed with its Town Meeting-approved plan to demolish the property.
“This was prompted by some complaints from the neighborhood about some troublesome use of the property,” he said, adding the town would be open to relocating the structure if someone were to provide a new location for it with no need for town funding.
“I don’t know that would be economically feasible given that the structure is in pretty tough shape internally, however,” he said.
After Mr. Johnson-Staub’s presentation, Mr. Jack said that to meet its growing future water needs, the town will require an additional municipal well on the property—one more reason to demolish the abandoned house.