OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to grant the Affordable Housing Commission $19,750 to transfer ownership of two McCulloch property sites and evaluate several vacant town-owned properties for suitability for affordable housing.
The recommendation now heads to the Board of Finance for approval.
The request included $12,000 for a subdivision application to split two 3-acre “building envelopes” from the 300-acre McCulloch Open Space that the town purchased in 2019 for $600,000. The agreement gave the town five years to create affordable housing on the two parcels — which comprised about $100,000 of the purchase price — otherwise the land would revert to open space.
Commission Chair Michael Fogliano said the two parcels need to be separated from the McCulloch property and given different deeds so they can eventually be transferred to Habitat for Humanity, which is building the single-family affordable houses.
“This is a top property considering that the McCulloch option will expire in September 2024, and our ARPA grant will close in December 2026,” Fogliano told the Board of Selectmen.
The request also included $3,000 to fund soil and water testing on town-owned, residentially zoned properties on Kimmick Road, Hillcrest Avenue and Grand View Road that the commission identified as potentially suitable for single-family affordable housing.
Fogliano said if the properties are deemed buildable, then another $4,750 of funding would be needed for lot line modification to merge five small abutting parcels on Hillcrest Avenue and Grand View Road into a single half-acre lot. A town-owned lot on Kimmick Road is 0.46 acres and will not need further lot line modification.
The original request equaled $20,000, which would have required a town meeting for approval, but the Board of Selectmen advised Fogliano to decrease the amount to $19,750 to streamline the approval process.
Selectman Martha Shoemaker questioned the conditions of the three unpaved, single-lane town roads, and whether they could handle the truck traffic that construction would bring.
During last week’s Affordable Housing Commission meeting, Fogliano noted that the group looked through more than 60 vacant town properties for potential affordable housing sites.
He also explained that a lot line modification for the five small town-owned properties will aggregate the parcels into one and make surveying the parcel easier.
Fogliano presented the $20,000 funding request to the commission, and asked for a vote of approval to take it to the Board of Selectmen on Monday.
But at the Friday meeting, commission member Anthony Vasilou said he objected to the town and the commission acting as a “land developer” and spending taxpayers’ money on services like soil and water testing and civil surveys, which he said a developer usually pays for.
“I’m intrigued by the fact that this commission has become a ‘land development commission.’ … I don’t understand why the taxpayers are having to pay now up to $20,000 to do work that many times are assumed by developers,” Vasilou said. “I believe that costs should be borne by people who want to develop the land … and not by the taxpayers of the city of Old Lyme.”
The commission ultimately voted 4-1 to approve the funding request.