GROTON — Action taken by selectmen this week will enable the Affordable Housing Trust to take a more proactive approach in seeking and/or creating affordable housing in town.
Trust Chairman Colleen Neff asked selectmen Monday if they would vote to amend the declaration that established the trust in 2008, enabling members to act on their own initiative when opportunity arose.
Specifically, Neff wanted selectmen to eliminate wording in the declaration that delineates the powers of the trustees, including preventing members from acting on their own to borrow money or to convey interest in property without the approval of the board.
According to Neff, the trust is applying for an appropriation of $300,000 from Community Preservation Committee funds in order to establish an affordable-housing fund from which money could be drawn for the purchase of real estate or housing units.
Currently, the trust has no monetary resources of its own. If a fund were established, use of it would be made in the same manner the Conservation Commission uses money from its own conservation fund.
Town Manager Mark Haddad told selectmen that without the ability to act on its own, the trust was relegated to more of an advisory capacity to selectmen than as an independent group.
“It makes sense not to have them come back to the Board of Selectmen (every time they wanted to do something),” said Haddad.
“I think it’s a good idea,” agreed board Chairman Stuart Schulman, observing that sometimes opportunities dealing with real estate come along at short notice.
“We have some really solid people as representatives there,” added Haddad, noting that two selectmen acted as permanent members of the trust so that it was unlikely that any decision could be made without the board being aware of it.
Noting also that the trust cannot borrow money for projects without assets to back it up, Haddad said the change in the declaration would protect the town from legal entanglements if selectmen were not directly involved in spending decisions.
Selectman Fran Dillon agreed, saying the new arrangement would erect a barrier protecting the town from liability.
The change in wording also had the approval of town counsel.
Selectmen voted to amend wording dealing with “the power of the trustees,” eliminating the requirement of members having to come to the board for approval of borrowing or real-estate transactions as allowed under state law.
A second vote required that the results of any audit of the trust’s monetary dealings be submitted to the town manager and the Board of Selectmen.
Neff said the application for CPC funding would be made in time for presentation to residents at next spring’s Town Meeting. She also confirmed that there are no real-estate opportunities currently being considered.
Also Monday night, selectmen were informed by Haddad that work has begun on formulating the town’s budget for fiscal 2012 with initial meetings with department heads scheduled for Dec. 1-8.
“This will be a tough year, but we’re ready to go,” said Haddad, confident that the continuing economic slowdown would not present insurmountable problems for Groton.
According to the town’s charter, the town manager is required to submit a draft budget for 2012 by the end of this year.