Town Council prepared to vote on Affordable Housing Amendments

As agreed to at the September 13, 2021 Town Council meeting, the council held an extra workshop on Wednesday, September 29 to discuss feedback received during the September 13 Public Hearing on the proposed Town Center Affordable Housing Amendments [Article].  

In response to public comments saying that the proposed amendments do not follow the recommendations of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, Councilor Gretchen Noonan said that in reviewing the 2019 Comprehensive Plan she noted that the plan twice mentions the possibility of having to change town policy in order to address issues such as affordable housing.  At the beginning, in the Executive Summary and again at the end in the Future Land Use chapter, Noonan pointed out that the plan states, "Significant issues identified by the plan that may require shifts in town policy include affordable housing, [tourism, school and municipal infrastructure, and efforts to moderate increases in the tax rate]."  Councilor Penny Jordan supported this observation by saying, "Ordinances need to change in order to address what might be going on in society at a certain point in time.  What we have heard from the experts is that ordinances are a barrier to housing diversity or diversity of housing stock.  Ordinances have to evolve with where the world is going."  Chair Jamie Garvin added that the recent ordinance changes to Short Term Rentals is, "an example of zoning amendments changing in response to current conditions to address a problem or issue."

Addressing comments which criticize the approach to providing affordable housing as proposed in The Szanton Company's project at Dunham Court, Garvin said that, "More work in more places needs to be done on this [affordable housing options], but here and now this is what we are addressing because a development came forward and forced the issue."  In response to citizens asking that a housing diversity study be performed first, as included in the Comprehensive Plan Recommendation #83,  Garvin said:

I would be very surprised, based on what we've heard from the experts in this arena, that approving these zoning amendments and the potential of this development moving forward would be in any way inconsistent with what we would ultimately come up with at the end of the exercise accomplishing recommendation #83 from the plan.  It is entirely likely that that recommendation and the housing diversity study - and anything else that would come from that exercise - would not be in conflict or inconsistent with anything we are considering now.

Councilor Valerie Deveraux suggested that, "We put together a committee that is going to look at diversity of housing; that is going to look at ordinance changes in other parts of town; that is going to look at affordable housing options like in-fill lots; that is going to look at housing that people can own rather than rent. We really need to look at our ordinances comprehensively -- that is what I am hearing."

The council agreed that they are prepared to vote on the proposed amendments at the next Town Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m.

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