Members of the Capital Improvement Planning Committee voted to support a proposed senior housing complex on the site of the former Henry T. Wing School this week, but it was not a slam dunk.
The 3-1 vote by the budget advisory group came after a lengthy discussion on Monday, May 18, about whether the development is a good deal—financially—for the town and the taxpayers.
“I’d like to get behind this and make it happen,” said committee member John W. Juros. “I hope you support it as well.”
But Nancy A. Crossman, chairman of the committee, disagreed.
“There are more questions than answers,” about the project, she said. “It might be better if we didn’t take a vote.”
The Capital Improvement Planning Committee—which either lends or withholds its support at the annual Town Meeting for proposed large expenditures—is not obligated to take a stand on warrant articles that involve Community Preservation Act funds.
But Mr. Juros suggested that the CIPC support the senior housing complex proposed for the Wing School because it is “a win-win” for the town.
The developer, Stratford Capital Group, is proposing to tear down most of the existing buildings on the site of the former Wing School and replace them with two- and three-story apartment buildings.
If all three of the planned phases are completed, the complex would eventually offer 128 units of affordable housing for those ages 62 and older.
The stumbling block for some residents, and some CIPC members, is the $2.65 million in community preservation funds the town has agreed to pay developer Stratford Group upfront to defray some demolition and site preparation costs.
Early on in the CIPC meeting, it seemed that all the committee members, except Mr. Juros, opposed the Stratford Group’s plan.
But Assistant Town Manager Heather B. Harper, who for several months has been leading workshops on the Wing School developments, along with Town Planner Ralph A. Vitacco, was able to sway two of the “no” votes to “yes” votes.
She said Stratford Group’s application for state funding will be bolstered by the town’s willingness to commit Community Preservation Act funds for the project.
Even if not all three of the proposed phases is completed by the developer, the town is still getting a bargain per-unit rate on much needed affordable senior housing, Ms. Harper said.
The town recently asked an independent consultant to conduct an assessment of the financing package.
“A professional took a look and said it is a good development,” Ms. Harper told the CIPC members.
The CIPC’s questions mirrored questions posed by residents at a workshop on the project in early March. The matter was to have been put before voters at a Special Town Meeting at the end of March, but the coronavirus caused a postponement of the meeting and ultimately, its cancellation.
The board of selectmen and the town manager have combined the warrants of the Special Town Meeting and the annual Town Meeting and rescheduled the annual Town Meeting for Monday, June 15.
At that meeting, voters will be asked to approve the conveyance of a portion of the Wing School property for the senior complex and to approve of $2.65 million in CPA funds.
The community preservation committee in February unanimously approved the use of preservation funds for the Wing school project.
Mr. Vitacco and Ms. Harper have said that Stratford Group is a quality developer of senior housing projects, especially those in historic settings.
Stratford Group developed senior housing at the former Kempton J. Coady School in Bourne. The company also purchased and transformed the former John Simpkins School on South Yarmouth’s Main Street into senior housing.
The developer is planning to preserve the Wing school’s original, red brick 1927 building that faces Route 130. The first of three phases will be built in and around the 1927 building and will contain 43 apartments, according to the plans.
Ms. Harper reminded the CIPC members that Stratford Group has proposed purchasing all the buildings on the Wing school site from the town for $1.3 million. The company will spend about $53 million in state and other funds to build the mixed-income rental development.
The town will retain ownership and use of the surrounding ball fields and much of the parking. The school can still be used as the starting point for parades and other events, the developer has said.
The auditorium will remain open to the community, Ms. Harper reiterated on Monday.
The board of selectmen and the finance committee have unanimously endorsed the Stratford Group development plan.
Mr. Juros added that the town would have to pay upwards of $4 million to demolish the Wing School and, while a decision is pending, the town is paying about $250,000 a year to maintain the complex.
“This is a company that knows what they’re doing,” Mr. Juros said. “We’re not going to get this [demolition and development] for free.”
By the end of the discussion, Ms. Crossman and committee member Peter C. Meomartino joined Mr. Juros in voting to support the complex while Kevin Klein remained opposed.