One last time.
I’m sure this will be the last column I write about the project known as Louisburg Square. I know, I predicted this weeks ago, but after that joint meeting between the boards it looked like it might have a chance, maybe the boards would come together and resolve their differences.
Things were beginning to happen.
The Housing Authority got to ask their “questions.”
The lawyers were getting together to resolve the lease, and I’m told it was done.
The appraisal that the opponents thought would certainly put an end to this project came back over the price the town has agreed to pay, overcoming another obstacle.
But just when you thought there was a chance, reality sets in.
The Housing Authority majority of Ken Martin, Ken Cunha and Jerry Supernant are just not interested.
The truth is there never were any questions. This group of three members just didn’t want the project — period.
From the time Ken Cunha defeated Bob Audet by a handful of votes, this thing was history.
And we really don’t know why.
What we know is that the project was supported by DHCD, the state agency in charge of providing support for senior housing, and was willing to provide nearly $3 million in upgrades.
We also know that the consultant hired by the Housing Authority to work with it on this project thought it would work, and gave several economic models that worked.
We also know that Joe Tully, the former director for the DHA, was a strong advocate for the project.
And we know that this was the first attempt to increase the number of subsidized senior housing units in Dracut in 20 years.
None of this means that Louisburg Square was a perfect project. Few are.
A look back at some of the investments made through the Community Preservation program and through general fund investments indicate plenty of room for disagreement.
Veterans Park almost didn’t happen because of disputes over lighting and concerns over the use of state funds allowing non-Dracut residents to use it.
The Canney Farm project, according to some, had too much wetland area and just cost too much.
Some question the farmland-preservation projects because they don’t allow public access despite the fact that they remain in private ownership.
But somehow, town officials have always been able to put their differences aside and get things done.
Not this time, and one wonders if the breakdown in trust can be repaired.
The remaining question is, can the town do better for its money?
For about $1.7 million in local Community Preservation money — about 11 percent of the fund — the town would have received 38 units of subsidized senior housing. The balance came from the state’s allocation of CPA funds and a DHCD grant.
Can the DHA or another nonprofit housing provider do better? The answer will take some time.
The appropriation for Louisburg Square can’t be used for another property without Town Meeting and CPC approval. Without a Special Town Meeting, the earliest that could happen is June 2010.
Add to that the process that goes along with public construction and it’s unlikely you will see any new senior housing until 2011 or later.
Not good news if you happen to be sitting on that long waiting list for senior housing in Dracut.
Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-AM from 6 to 10.