WELLFLEET — Officials are pumping the brakes on the 95 Lawrence Road affordable housing project due to the delay of town meeting.
The use of town-owned land at that location, surrounding the baseball field across from the Wellfleet Elementary School, for affordable housing was approved at town meeting last year. A task force has been working on a request for proposals to build 46 units of affordable housing on the site. But building there will require an upgrade to the town’s secondary water system for an expected cost of $3.5 million, which the town plans to split between bonds and a MassWorks Infrastructure Grant.
The state has not yet released the grant application, but Wellfleet could have begun the project with a town meeting vote on authorizing bonds to get it started. Now, with town meeting delayed due to the pandemic, the project must be postponed for several months.
The original water main system was installed in 1989 to serve about 40 properties near the transfer station. It has three wells near Coles Neck Road.
The pipes were made intentionally small to cut costs, according to select board member Kathleen Bacon.
A new main with larger pipes connected to wells on Old Kings Highway was installed in 2009. The new system took the role of the primary water main, while the original main from 1989 was demoted to secondary.
That secondary system can pump 40,000 gallons of water per day, which is fine for the current usage, according to water commission chair Jim Hood, but not for the added housing.
The chances of getting the MassWorks grant to pay for half the costs are good, said Carl Sussman of the Lawrence Road Project Task Force. But with town meeting delayed, voters cannot approve the bond until October.
Without a way to guarantee developers that the new water main will be paid for and installed, town officials decided not to put out the request for proposals.
“Uncertainty attracts fewer developers, potentially less qualified developers, or maybe no developers,” Sussman said.
The delay is a disappointment for those working to bring Wellfleet closer to the state’s 10 percent goal for affordable housing. Last year, only 1.9 percent of the town’s year-round housing was affordable, according to McIlroy, though thanks to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, that number is now up to 2.45 percent.
“The more we can do to encourage people to live in this vibrant town, the better,” said Sarah Pechukas Slivka, a member of the Wellfleet Housing Authority.
She said she and many friends who have raised children in town are troubled by the fact that, once grown, their children cannot afford to stay. “It’s nice to think of a community where people can afford to buy homes. I can’t think of anything more important for the town.”