First Selectman Suggests Residents ‘Remain Civilized’

by Loumarie I. Rodriguez | Posted: Saturday, October 4, 2014 6:00 am

ROXBURY — Tensions were high among the 200-plus residents who crammed into the town hall meeting room and watched from the hallway on Tuesday, September 30, to discuss the concept of alternative housing.

First Selectman Barbara Henry repeatedly stated she wanted residents to remain civilized during the presentation and when voicing their opinions.

Photo Credit- Rodriguez

Photo Credit- Rodriguez

The purpose of the meeting is to look at one option out of a several that were discussed by the Smart Growth Committee.

Ms. Henry stressed nothing is a done deal and what was presented was simply an option to consider.

Jocelyn Ayer, the Community and Economic Development director, gave the presentation on the alternative housing concept for Roxbury and what it could look like.

She showed examples of alternative housing set-ups in other communities that included Bridgewater and Washington.

She included in her presentation a map of how alternative housing can be set up on a plot of land within Roxbury.

The concept was entitled Bernhardt Meadow, which would be built on parcels with a minimum of 25 buildable acres on paved roads.

The concept also included a 100-foot setback/landscape buffer from neighboring properties.

However, despite Ms. Henry’s request for civility a few residents interrupted Ms. Ayer’s presentation with angry comments.

A few residents demanded research directly from the region to see if there is a need for alternative housing.

“When you feel the need to control outcomes because of fear and not from the heart it is not appreciated,” said Ms. Henry.

“It’s not warranted or wanted here in this little community. People can agree to disagree, but don’t have stoop any further.

“In our community we are better than the reactions have been on this issue. We have proven it time and again. Passion is okay, different opinions are okay, which we have seen that more than once with the school issues.

“But please lets not carry these ill feelings beyond tonight’s meeting.”

Ms. Henry reiterated multiple times that the presentation is only an idea and there are no regulations to vote on and town officials are not working on getting condos.

She attempted to debunked rumors that included lack of water in town. Ms. Henry said none of that is true.

She explained the reason alternative housing was brought up is because in 2008, the Planning Commission began to update the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development as it is required to do every 10 years. After an informational meeting on needs for Roxbury’s future, a few residents suggested housing.

During that time, a developer approached Ms. Henry about building smaller homes on smaller lots. There was a piece of property he was interested in.

Ms. Henry told the developer the town does not have the regulations to allow that for the moment. However, she kind of liked the idea.

The Smart Growth Committee was then established. The selectmen had said the committee’s purpose was to explore ways to encourage smaller scale housing.

This housing would be suitable for people who are downsizing, for both young and old, people who do not want the responsibility of owning a large home or property and do not want to live in condos.

The committee looked into what makes these concepts work in other communities and how it can be applied to Roxbury.

Residents still were not impressed with the presentation by Ms. Ayer. Many said they did were not interested in alternative housing and did not want a localized study done.

The Smart Growth Committee answered residents’ questions. Bob Munson, a member of the committee, said the concept presented is a way to stop Roxbury from becoming a bedroom community and keep the diversity in town.

“As a member of a third generation in this town, I am not out to destroy the town,” said Mr. Munson. “All I’m trying to do is keep the diversity and find a way to make this town work and stay alive from the children to the elderly.”

A few residents applauded Mr. Munson. Others wanted to know what Roxbury currently supplies in housing.

Peter Filious, chairman of the Planning Commission and the Smart Growth Committee, said many homes in Roxbury cost more than $500,000; there is a small number that start under $400,000.

“We are simply looking at alternatives, which are things we don’t have in Roxbury, but there are in surrounding towns,” said Mr. Filious.

Selectman Russell Dirienzo said residents are getting scared over nothing because the soil in Roxbury doesn’t allow for major development.

He explained small towns similar to Roxbury are going extinct and the selectmen need residents to tell them what they want.

Mr. Filious said the group is only looking at all the options available and trying to adopt them to Roxbury.

“It’s going to be up to the people of Roxbury to make the final decision on what is the best for them,” said Mr. Filious. “I’m doing this as a volunteer. This is not my full time job.

“I am doing this as a volunteer to give my expertise as advised and the town of Roxbury has to either accept it or not.”

Mr. Filious further stated there has been a lot of misinformation passed around and it was corrected during the meeting.

Ms. Henry said it was good they manage to have a discussion and will see if Smart Growth Committee members want to serve again.

“When people came in here, they were very angry, but that was over misinformation that we were shoving this down their throats and there aren’t even any regulations,” said Ms. Henry.

“There have been a lot of hurt feelings so hopefully we can turn the page and go.”

Ms. Henry said she was thrilled with the number of residents who attended the meeting and voiced their concerns.

She was surprised with where residents wanted to go with the subject since half said yes to explore further and other half said no.

Ms. Henry said they will discuss the subject further at the next selectmen’s meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, October 6.

There is a Smart Growth Committee meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 7.

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