Town Meeting Ponders Linden Street Redevelopment Article 22 Construction Funding


NEEDHAM, MA - Two years ago, the Needham Housing Authority (NHA) prepared four Warrant Articles for Town Meeting.  One proposal, to develop Militia Heights was dropped, as overreaching.  Another proposal for an assistant executive director at NHA was, likewise, rejected before getting to the floor.

Town Meeting did grant the Housing Authority two proposals:  1) for pre-development and preservation at the Seabeds/Capt. Cook projects, and 2) $1.386 million for the non-construction pre-development at Linden and Chambers.

NHA proceeded to prepare construction grant applications for the 2023 cycle of funding.  The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) was concerned that the NHA was asking for more money, without having accomplished the previously authorized tasks.  At that time, NHA had not submitted any requests for reimbursements, for bills paid, on work done.  

The key-decision makers in Town felt NHA was not ready to go forward.  The CPC was sufficiently overwhelmed at the incomprehensibility of the "financial layer cake" presented by the prime consultant, Cambridge Housing, they wanted a pause.   An informal "Committee of Chairs" asked that NHA back off, because NHA did not have the funding, nor "a clear path forward" in the zoning.   Ultimately, there were questions about the capacity of NHA to do the job.

The Select Board took the hint and formed the Town-Financed Community Housing Oversight Committee (T-CHOC), the primary function of which was, and is, to protect the Town's financial commitments.   

At this point, Town Meeting Members might ask what work has been authorized, what work has been done, and is this work product accessible to the public?   

In the normal course of affairs, information is generated, relative to the feasibility of a project, the property conditions at the site, and an appreciation of the neighborhood context.  That information then serves as a basis for going forward.  Now that there are "300+ pages" of work generated, with reports and drawings, on the status, can that data can be accessed through the Town (as manager of the CPC grant and the owner of the information) and can it be used by a Linden Street Community Design Studio at 164 Linden Street?   

At this point, its one thing or another.  Either we can say, 1) the NHA has been, by appearances, unwilling or unable, to delivery on requests for public records, for whatever reason, and, of course, everybody is doing the best they can, or 2) the work has not been done, at all.

A homeowner on Sylvan Road near High Rock Field asked, 4-5 months ago, about studies done, on the increased traffic from the proposed double-density, four story, Federal housing project, and the impact on the neighborhood and the High Rock School district.  The inquiring citizen was told that a "Traffic Analysis" (see below) was being done and would be finished in April.  It is now May, and there is no "traffic analysis."  And yet, Town Meeting Members are asked to approve the latest and most questionable Needham tear down on Linden Street, in ignorance, but with faith and hope.

NHA was, also, asked about flooding and drainage, at the Planning/Housing public engagement meeting at Broadmeadow School.  People were told that NHA had the engineering done.   That may be so, but NHA has not been forthcoming with the information.  And the question remains about where NHA stands in relation to the townwide hydrology study scheduled to start in July 2025 and run for 18 months by the DPW (in Article 31?)  Will that information inform and guide the NHA into the future? 

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