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Affordable housing in Salisbury

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

Right around this time in 2018, Salisbury took the positive step of approving at town meeting the Holley Block option for the Salisbury Housing Committee to lease property on Millerton Road in Lakeville owned by the town, and then began the process of analyzing it as a site for 12 to 18 affordable housing units. It was just the beginning of the plans that were presented twice for approval last year, were approved, and are now on hold due to a lawsuit from Lakeville landowners who would prefer not to have such housing be a part of their neighborhood. The targets of the lawsuit are the Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission and the Salisbury Housing Committee.

Now, there is new hope for planned housing in Salisbury, behind LaBonne’s and near (actually, over) the Rail Trail. The proposal, written about in this newspaper since May, includes 18 to 20 rental units on 5.3 acres gifted to the Salisbury Housing Committee by Jim Dresser, who lives adjacent to the land he donated. While neighbors have had the opportunity to discuss in public meeting the planning for these rentals, a newly formed advisory group should help this vision of much-needed affordable housing become reality.

There are still approvals to obtain, including at a July 28 evening meeting at which a right-of-way will be put to a vote. If there is a positive outcome, the Salisbury Housing Committee will be able to seek approval to begin construction.

We’ve said it before, but it cannot be said enough: kudos and profound gratitude to Dresser for his generosity and willingness to act on his knowledge of and commitment to the need for affordable housing in his community.    

Back to Lakeville: This newspaper predicted in 2018 that there would be residents who would express shock, surprise and anxious discontent at the direction solid plans had taken toward the end of the process of the Holley Block property development. It does seem to happen at the conclusion of every initiative that there is a small but highly vocal group who had no idea what was planned and who disagree with whatever form the proposed building plans have taken. We sincerely hope this does not become an issue for the newest Salisbury initiative.

The issue of affordable housing has now become perhaps the most contentious topic in the town of Salisbury — and in other towns in the state. Friends are finding themselves on different sides of an issue they believed they could agree on in less disagreeable times — like 2018? It’s time to find common ground again in order to provide for all the town residents’ housing needs. If Salisbury can do it, that will give inspiration and hope to its surrounding town neighbors.

See Mary Close Oppenheimer’s column last week on Liv Franson that is part of her longtime series on affordable housing. This story has a good and encouraging outcome. But the current multi-unit housing in town, which continues to have long waiting lists, cannot serve the full population of a town and a region where pricing has risen astronomically in the past couple of years.

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