Hadley officials eye new housing plan

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/23/2021 9:46:17 AM

HADLEY — Insights into how Hadley can preserve its stock of affordable housing and what types of homes could be constructed in the future, while making the town eligible for state grants, are being sought in a new planning document.

The Select Board, following a Planning Board recommendation, is moving forward with what is known as a housing production plan that will be paid for with grant money.

Members of the Housing and Economic Development Committee made the appeal to do the report.

“What it does is it puts us in a much better position for grant opportunities down the road for any sort of housing endeavors we might get into,” said Molly Keegan, a former Select Board member who serves on the committee.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer, also on the panel, said the initial benefit of the report is that it shows the state Hadley is doing something and would be similar to the town’s master plan and its chapter on housing.

“This is an effort to gather more information,” Dwyer said, adding that it is not a self-implementing document. That means if any proposals come out of it, such as zoning changes that could include apartment or cluster zoning, they would need to be brought to Town Meeting for consideration.

Ken Comia, a senior planner with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, said he already is doing similar housing production plans for Southampton and East Longmeadow. Those are both being paid for with District Level Technical Assistance grants.

The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development has to approve the plans, Comia said, and then data gathering would commence, providing details about current demographics, constraints to housing and the capacity of infrastructure. “It’s a planning process,” Comia said.

One of the reasons Southampton is doing such a plan, unlike Hadley, is to get up to the 10% subsidized housing inventory mandated by the state. Without meeting this threshold, developers can skirt town zoning laws with so-called Chapter 40B projects.

Dwyer said even though Hadley already exceeds the affordable housing minimum, the housing production plan would answer questions about available sites for various types of housing.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said Hadley needs to also plan for the day when some of the affordable housing units will see their affordability lapse.

“In about 15 years, unless we do something, we’re going to be under 10%,” Maksimoski said.

Though endorsed by the Planning Board, member Michael Sarsynski said he sees it as a potential waste of tax dollars and an unfunded mandate, especially considering other towns that are more distant from services don’t face the same pressures to provide affordable housing.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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