To the Editor, I am the member of the MBTA Task Force who lives on Bennett St. I am responding to the letter to the editor in last week’s paper as an individual, not on behalf of the Task Force.
Why is Bennett St. not being considered? It was considered, as were many other areas, but deemed to be inconsistent with the goal of preserving the character of the town by excluding the Historic District. The south side of the first half of Bennett St. and both sides of Bridge St. are in the Historic District. There are also six antique houses on Bennett St. which are not in the Historic District, including the town’s oldest house. I don’t think people want to jeopardize those structures. There is a three family across the street from me in the General District where three units in an existing structure have been allowed by right for 50 years. There are also 6 two-family homes on the street.
By including well-designed multi-family properties such as Saw Mill Circle and the condos at 21 Pine Street, there is little incentive for a developer to redevelop them. The inclusion of small lots (6,000 sq. ft. in the General District) makes it difficult for a developer to acquire enough adjoining lots at $1 million each to create a financially viable large-scale development. In the areas being considered, properties in the Historic District have not been included. The Task Force will make recommendations to the Planning Board for their consideration and any zoning change will be presented to the Town’s voters at a Special Town Meeting.
Failure to comply will leave the town ineligible for $1.9 million in dredging funds from the State which will add 6% to the tax rate. We recently received approval for a $3.5 million water works grant which could be in jeopardy. Loss of additional state funds will further increase the tax rate.
The Task Force goal is to preserve the Town’s character and to minimize the number of new residential units that might be developed by complying with the law and not making it attractive for developers within the half-mile radius. It is complicated and there are tradeoffs. To date, we have received lots of criticism but few constructive ideas to help us in the process.
We are doing the best we can to try to comply with a law that most people do not like.
Sarah Mellish, Manchester