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4 Takeaways From the 9/15 North & Trahan School Reuse Committee

1.The meeting opened with resident comments. A request was made to provide paper copies of the survey for residents. There was a question about taking down the buildings so the town doesn’t have to maintain them once they’re empty, and they don’t stay unused for years like the old police station — especially since the Center fire station will also be empty soon. The resident was displeased when he was cut off by Chair Bruce Shick, who wished to keep the resident comments section to 10 minutes.

There was one last question about the possibility of residents being able to take the survey multiple times. Committee members said it was difficult to do so twice from the same computer but conceded that the committee is operating on the honor system. Shick said the committee decided it was more important to keep the survey anonymous than to worry about people gaming the system.

2. The survey has gone out to the public. (If you’d like to take it, you can find a link here.) The library is distributing flyers with a QR code for residents, and committee member Jeff Elwell visited the Senior Center to help that community access the survey.

The committee had a conversation about printing up copies of the survey to leave at the Senior Center and possibly the library. It would require reworking since the online format will not print easily. It was noted that there are 20 computers that can be used at the library, but only a single time for the survey. Ultimately the committee decided to stick with just the online version, in line with other town surveys that have been sent out.

3. Tewksbury Home Build president Bruce Panilaitis shared that organization’s vision for the Trahan property. Shick reiterated that the presentation was for informational purposes only. Tewksbury Home Build’s mission is to provide affordable housing opportunities in town. To date, the group has completed three homes in town and is in the process of building two more, though as he explained to the Select Board recently, it has encountered some issues. It has also partnered with Soldier On to build affordable veteran housing on Main St.

Based on the zoning and current makeup of the neighborhood, Panilaitis proposes 22 single family homes with .2 acre lots for the 6.27 acre site. He said that the group based its proposal on the maximum number of homes that could be built on the property. There would need to be two entrance points; there is one on Salem St., and Panilaitis suggested Madeline Dr. for the second. Member Bob Fowler, who represents the Planning Board, agrees on two egress points but isn’t sure Madeline Dr. would be sufficient.

Panilaitis says that it costs Tewksbury Home Build roughly $140,000 to $160,000 to build a home. It sells the units for $200,000, which is half of the market rate. It is hoping for an investment from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help defray some of the costs of developing the site.

Shick asked why single-family homes versus condos. Panilaitis said that, except for its partnership with Soldier On, the group’s goal is to create affordable homes to sell. They are not in the business of being landlords. He also noted that single-family homes would fit in the neighborhood better.

Tewksbury Home Build deeds the homes it builds to be affordable in perpetuity and would also put dimensional parameters so an owner could not tear one down and build a larger house in its place.

Member Mark Kratman, who represents the Select Board, expressed concerned about traffic and noted that area of town recently had a major traffic infrastructure improvement that did not account for additional housing. Panilaitis said he had not had a traffic study done but would if the project had the possibility of moving forward. He also believes that there would be less traffic from the homes than there is currently with the school.

Kratman also stated that the neighborhood, as proposed, is too densely populated and that if the town opted to go this route there should be fewer homes and more open space.

Tewksbury Home Build uses a lottery system to choose se buyers. Those interested need to qualify for affordable housing and submit an application.

Lastly, Panilaitis said that the Tewksbury Home Build board has not discussed developing the North St. property, but he personally thinks it makes more sense to have a recreation area there with basketball and pickleball courts due to the proximity to the Frasca soccer complex. He imagines there could be footbridges between the two properties.

4. The next meeting is October 6. Residents have until noon on Oct. 4 to complete the survey.

Julie Naughton
Julie Naughton

Julie likes coffee and covers education and all things concerning the Tewksbury Public Schools, along with other topics, for the Carnation. Contact her at: attn Julie N.

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