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Approved affordable-housing plan helps keep local control of developments


PEPPERELL — The Planning Board voted 3-0 Monday night to approve an affordable-housing plan for the town.

The document provides a five-year blueprint for how the town can move toward a state standard of having 10 percent of its housing classified as affordable. The plan was approved by selectmen last week.

Pepperell now has about 3.5 percent affordable housing, according to the plan, and would require an additional 305 units to meet the 10 percent goal.

Planning Board member Albert Patenaude chaired the Affordable Housing Committee, which developed the plan with the North Middlesex Council of Governments.

Patenaude said passing the plan was important because it allowed the town to regulate the process by which affordable housing is constructed in Pepperell. Without the plan, he said, developers could come into town and push for affordable-housing projects. With it, the town can choose which developers can pursue projects.

“It actually helps us create a direction for the town as compared to having the direction forced upon us. It doesn’t really outline anything different than what’s already out there. It just gives us better provisions on how to manage developers that come in and, in the long-term, provide the housing that the state requires,” Patenaude said after the meeting.

Planner Joseph Helfter said the plan would move the town toward an affordable-housing goal that would contribute to growth.

“It can be a positive catalyst to help bring new families into the community, especially now that we’ve got this high-school measure passed,” Helfter said.

Helfter, Patenaude and Anna MacDonald voted for the plan. Member Matthew Nesbit was not present.

NMCOG representative Jay Donovan said the plan would be submitted for approval to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, likely by the end of the month.

Board vacancy

The Planning Board postponed elections for new officers due to Nesbit’s absence and a vacancy on the committee.

The vacancy was left by member Richard McHugh, who did not run for re-election last month. No one ran for the position at the town’s April 28 election, but a new member could be appointed jointly by the Planning Board and selectmen at the next selectmen’s meeting June 2.

A potential candidate, George Clark, sat in on the meeting, and said he is interested in filling the vacancy.

Helfter suggested postponing the vote to the board’s meeting June 9 to have a full board at the time of officer elections.

Planning administrator Susan Snyder also said NMCOG has approved a grant request for 40 hours worth of work to help the town put together a professional report on the findings of a zoning subcommittee, which is investigating ways of rezoning the town to help develop a commercial district. The report would be presented at a future Town Meeting.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.

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