SHIRLEY — A little over a 100 residents showed up to the Special Town Meeting last Monday and voted down an article that would have allowed for the creation of 62 new affordable housing units at an existing senior community.
With only 9 articles on the warrant, the Special Town Meeting wrapped up in less than three hours, with only two articles generating discussion.
The main issue, in article 3, was a proposed land sale that would have allowed the town to sell 4.62 acres of land to Devens for the construction of an affordable housing complex for senior citizens. The parcel is located near the Ayer Shirley Regional Middle School, at the intersection of Hospital and Eliot roads.
The proposed senior community represents the second phase of the adjacent Shirley Meadows senior apartment complex, which was built by MassDevelopment, the quasi-public agency that revitalized Fort Devens, and a nonprofit called 2 Life, which runs the 58-unit Shirley Meadows.
Based on the proposal, the complex would have had 62 new units, bringing the total up to 120 affordable units at the Shirley Meadows complex. Had it been approved, the price would’ve been based on a standard at the lower end of the price range for affordable units, according to Life 2.
During various meetings about the proposal, the developers had agreed to relocate playing fields if the project ended up encroaching or displacing any of the existing fields nearby, as well as agreed to give the town the right to use small pieces of the land for potential town needs, called municipal easements.
But most notably, the town had been attracted to the idea of getting 62 more affordable housing units that would count toward the town’s state-mandated quota. The Select Board and the Finance Committee endorsed the proposal, but voters responses were mixed. Discussions included questions about everything from zoning to job creation to parking.
Some felt that the land should not be sold, as it might be needed if the town had to find a place to build a new school to replace the aging Lura White Elementary School.
Mary Redd, who moved here with her husband from Texas, said that there are 200 people on the waiting list for apartments in the senior complex, including Shirley residents.
“It’s good for business,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to know that aging parents or grandparents could stay in the community?”
The Shirley Meadows residents all praised their “aging in place”community, which they said allows them to live comfortably, for the rest of their lives in safe, serene surroundings, with programs and activities to keep them busy and where medical and other services are offered on site.
Asked if Life2 would consider expanding Shirley Meadows on Devens land on Elliot Road, across from the existing building. But the proponents of the project said that an unobstructed link between the two Shirley Meadows complexes was crucial for community engagement.
With 61 votes needed to pass, the measure failed: 45 for, 58 against.
Town Meeting voters passed an article that gave an annual stipend of up to $1,000 for the town treasurer/collector for the cost of “study and training” for certification, as well as another that funded negotiated union contracts.
Voters withdrew article 11, which asked for a local marijuana sales tax, because it had already been approved in 2018.