GROTON — Torn between two causes, selectmen on Monday night were unable to decide whether to support an application for public funding from the town’s Housing Authority.
The problem is that the authority’s request for $120,000 from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) draws on the same source of funding that the Groton Housing Trust wishes to draw $400,000 for its own projects.
“This does seem to fill two obvious needs,” mused Selectmen Peter Cunningham.
Selectmen chose to take the authority’s request under advisement until their meeting on Feb. 28.
According to Housing Authority member Brooks Lyman, the money being requested would be used to help purchase a pair of housing units at the undersold Groton Residential Gardens complex on Route 119. Units would be owned and managed by the authority as affordable housing.
But Selectman Anna Eliot wondered why two town groups focused on affordable housing should be in competition with each other over a limited amount of funds.
Lyman explained there had been discussion between the two groups about the units but when there was a difference of opinion over whether they should be bought and held by the town or resold, they went their “separate ways.”
Acknowledging the situation is not ideal, Lyman suggested that in the future, such discussions should take place well in advance so that better cooperation between the two entities could be realized.
In the meantime, however, the deal to buy the two units at a cost of $162,000 each — down from more than $300,000 — was too good to pass up, Lyman said.
The problem for selectmen is that the dueling requests add up to an amount exceeding what’s allocated to affordable housing by the CPC.
In addition, the board has already voted to support the request from the trust for $400,000 for the establishment of an affordable-housing fund to be used to support the group’s activities as well as take advantage of any real-estate opportunities that may arise over the course of the year.
But was it fair, asked Eliot, not to support the Housing Authority just because it appeared before selectmen after the trust? Was getting “a foot in the door” first the criteria for choosing between two otherwise worthy requests?
Eliot suggested the board simply support both requests and leave it up to the CPC to evaluate them and make a final decision. It’s CPC’s responsibility to decide how to allocate the funding, she said.
Selectman Joshua Degen, though admiring the Housing Authority’s plan, faulted it for wanting to buy units from developer Robert Walker.
Citing Walker’s past difficulties with the town, Degen was opposed to any plan that helps Walker out of a predicament that has left many of his units at the Residential Gardens complex unsold.
“It would not be a prudent expenditure of funds,” said Degen.
Both Degen and board Chairman Stuart Schulman are members of the trust and would likely recuse themselves from a board vote on the question of supporting the funding request.