To The Daily Sun,
Recently Bill Whalen has written letters to area newspapers regarding senior housing. In both he has failed to tell the whole story, thus misleading people. Here is the accurate story of senior housing in Sanbornton.
In 1996/97 the Sanbornton Grange recognized there was a need for housing for seniors to allow them to remain in the town where their friends and families lived. They took a telephone survey of 102 town seniors over the age of 65. Result: 91 percent were in favor of senior housing. They shared their information with the town boards, and at the joint land use boards meeting it was discussed. The decision was for the Planning Board to create a Senior Housing Ordinance.
In 1999 the ordinance was presented to the voters in two amendments on the ballot. Amendment 1, definition, passed 471 yes and 118 no. Amendment 2, the permitting ordinance passed 463 yes and 121 no.
In 2000 the Sanbornton Senior Housing Corp. Inc. was formed. This was an independent group and not a town entity. They received several grants and one was for a market study which indicated there was a definite need for more senior housing. That year the town voted to sell the group a piece of town-owned land for $1. When drawing up the deed, the Board of Selectmen put in a restriction that if the senior housing project failed, the land reverted back to the town. This proved a problem for the developers getting funding. So a special Town Meeting was held in 2002 to see if the voters wanted the restriction removed. They did not and the first try for senior housing failed.
In 2003 two town planners resigned, and six of us board members all resigned on the same night. When the next senior housing request came before the board, all but one man were new to planning. The case went to court and the project was ended.
It seems that many of the new members did not like the Senior Housing Ordinance as it was on the books. Whether they felt they didn't have the experience to change it, or that they were just against senior housing, I don't know. But in 2005 they put it on the ballot to get it repealed.
Mr. Whalen was Planning Board chair during this time, so he worked on getting it repealed. He thinks the fact that people voted it out tells him they did not and do not want senior housing. I disagree. When an ordinance that was put on the books by a board, and then the same board asks the voters to repeal it, voters trust the board's reason, especially when the last line for the amendment is "The Planning Board supports the adoption of this amendment." The vote was "yes" 396 and "no 339."
Last year there was a petitioned warrant article to form a committee to get senior housing back on track. I spoke against it saying that it is the Planning Board's duty to put the ordinance back on the books and another committee was not needed. The result was a sign that voters didn't want another committee, not that they opposed senior housing. At this meeting there was also a handout which had a question about senior housing. It was filled out by 92 people and only 12 of the 92 opposed it.
Not having a senior housing ordinance is thus prohibiting it here. Is the message we want for Sanbornton that you can live and pay taxes here, volunteer and serve on boards and committees here, have friends and family here, but don't grow old here. I don't think that is how most of us feel, so I hope we can get senior housing back in our zoning ordinances. It may not get built for years, but at least we have the ability to accommodate it if it does come.
- Category: Letters
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