WILMINGTON — Director of Planning and Conservation Valerie Gingrich briefed the Board of Selectmen on local preference, and how it applies to the Princeton Properties project.
According to Gingrich, local preference is the process whereby which affordable housing units are allocated to those who qualify as local. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) allows local preference designations if it can be proven necessary.
“We (prove necessity) by talking about how long our waitlists are for rental units in town, and other data we supply to DHCD,” Gingrich said.
The maximum number of units that can be designated for local preference is 70 percent of total affordable housing units. If the DHCD approves local preference, it can be employed by the owner or manager of the property in the first leasing lottery process.
Gingrich explained that there are four categories that form a “menu of what is considered local.” These four categories include:
• Current residents — one or more members of the household lives in town at the time of application
• Municipal employees
• Employees of local business
• Households with children attending that town’s schools
Gingrich stated that Princeton has agreed to local preference in the first round of leasing. The specific definition of local preference will be determined during the permitting process.
According to Town Manager Jeff Hull, the Zoning Board of Appeals makes the final determination of the definition of local preference. He noted that the Board of Selectmen could have some input in the process, especially give the board’s involvement up until this point.
“The board certainly can take the opportunity to make a recommendation to the Board of Appeals,” Hull said.
He added that the ZBA would begin the “very beginning stages” of the process on Wednesday, May 13.
Selectman Kevin Caira asked whether the town would be asked to prioritize among the four listed categories.
“When you choose those categories, they’re equally weighted,” said Gingrich. “…You can choose all four and have more people in that pool.”
Selectman Michael McCoy suggested that the board prioritize individuals who already live in town.
“I would rather just lock in one, for current residents,” McCoy said, stating he would still expect to see a large wave of applications from that category alone.
Selectman Jonathan Eaton responded that he saw value in maintaining all four categories, especially the fourth.
“There are some logistical advantages to the children that are attending our schools to have both parents nearby,” Eaton said, adding that he had no objection to categories two and three either.
Eaton added he was pleased local preference was being proposed for this development.
“I can’t remember the last time we’ve had an annual Town Meeting where someone has not stood up and said that we need more affordable housing in town for the residents that have been paying property taxes for so long,” Eaton said.
Selectman Jomarie O’Mahony also expressed a desire to maintain all four categories, including the provision for municipal employees.
“I think you could make a case for all four of the categories that the DHCD lays out for us,” O’Mahony said.
Town Manager Jeff Hull added that the process would continue with decision-making taking place both among the Conservation Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“The intent is that the progress run concurrently and that both committees will be evaluating different parts of that proposal,” Hull said.