Select Board Votes to Move Forward with Purchase and Sale on 20 Glenwood
By Tara Hughes Oct. 31, 2023
After a contentious debate on Monday night, the Select Board has voted 3-2 (with Michael Bettencourt and Michelle Prior voting in the negative) to move forward with the Purchase and Sale (P&S) Agreement with the abutters of 20 Glenwood Ave for $40,000.
Several residents spoke during public comment but the agenda item didn’t get discussed until approximately 10:30 pm. Select Board Chair Rich Mucci emphasized that stakeholders knew about the Request for Proposals (RFP), but failed to hold meetings to discuss or to get involved. He disagreed with the idea that it was not a collaborative effort and said that it was the stakeholders, such as the Affordable Housing Trustee Committee and the Housing Partnership Committee who “didn’t do their job.” One of Bettencourt’s original complaints about the RFP process was that it was issued and closed during the summer when many people are away.
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Bettencourt also raised the issue at Monday’s meeting that the Board had used an old appraisal in the RFP process and then sought an updated appraisal after the fact. The updated appraisal valuing the property at $50,000 as an unbuildable lot more closely aligned with the offer from the abutters, but did not take into account either 40B (the state’s affordable housing law) or the added value to the abutter’s property. He said the law requires they obtain an appraisal before the RFP is issued (rather than using a 2-year-old appraisal). He also faulted the Board for failing to to obtain stakeholder’s input.
Planning Board Chair Diab Jerius sent a letter to the Select Board (and was also present) saying that the procedure outlined in the RFP requiring that stakeholders (including Planning Board) meet and advise the Board on the offer(s) had not been followed. He advised the Board that the addition of the 20 Glenwood property to the abutter’s property increased the square footage such that zoning in that neighborhood allowed the construction of a duplex on the property to be built as of right, increasing the potential value of the property. Later in the meeting he told the Board that a deed restriction that would prevent the buyers from building a duplex on the lot would be counterproductive. “Reducing the ability to put another house in town is a bad idea. And while affordable housing is important, the biggest thing that will get us to lower housing prices is a larger supply of houses,” Jerius said.
Bettencourt made a motion that the Board delay the signing of the P&S for 90 days to allow for further discussions and a plan to be outlined for the demolition of the inhabitable home (a goal for the neighbors) and the building of affordable housing on the lot by the Affordable Housing Trust (or others). If an adequate plan is not created in the 90-day period, the Board would sign the P&S. The motion failed 3-2, with Mucci once again saying that he would never vote for anything other than moving forward with the award and signing the P&S. Prior, who voted in favor of this motion, indicated that if she had had all the information she has now from stakeholders she would have voted differently on accepting the original offer.
Board member John Fallon later moved that the Board vote to sign the P&S, but negotiate to add a stipulation that the abutters at 18 Glenwood Ave. agree to a deed restriction to prevent a duplex as of right being built on the lot. Planning Board Chair Diab Jerius was allowed to come to the table and he advised that this action would not in fact support the Town’s goals of increasing housing in Winchester and should not be pursued. Fallon withdrew his motion and moved that the Board vote to sign the P&S with no additional stipulations, which passed.
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