WELLFLEET — The select board filled six of seven available spots on the new Maurice’s Campground Planning Committee at its Nov. 1 meeting but ran into trouble trying to decide on its selection for the last seat.
The committee was created by the board to design an affordable housing development at the campground after voters authorized Wellfleet’s purchase of the property at a special town meeting in September.
The 21-acre site in South Wellfleet was purchased for $6.5 million. The agreement with the sellers allows for a six-year transitional period during which seasonal residents could remain at the campground before construction begins. It was the first time that Wellfleet has purchased property with the intent of using it for affordable housing, according to select board Chair Ryan Curley.
Curley began by saying, “I just want to stress how important this committee is to Wellfleet.”
The four board members present (Vice Chair Michael DeVasto was absent for personal reasons, Curley said) proceeded to set a cap on the number of committee members. “A very large committee becomes unwieldy,” board member Barbara Carboni said.
Curley suggested setting the number at nine, with seven appointments made by the select board and two by the town administrator.
Board member Kathleen Bacon interrupted him: “Mr. Chair, if I may, I would like to suggest that we ask in the best possible way our fellow board member Barbara Carboni to be on this committee as well.”
Curley said that the town charter specified that such an appointment would have to be made by the town administrator.
“Is that why my application isn’t in there?” board member John Wolf asked quietly.
“Any member of the select board will have to be appointed by the town administrator,” Curley said.
The board then voted to set the number of committee members at nine with three-year terms.
The board had received 11 applications for the planning committee, which Curley said was unusual. “Normally, we don’t have more applicants than we have available seats,” he told the Independent.
The board then began interviewing the candidates, five of whom were present. “I am not sure if all of them were notified,” Curley said.
The applicants who were there were caught off guard. “I wasn’t aware this was going to be an interview,” applicant Sharon Rule-Agger said.
“I didn’t realize I would be in this meeting,” Olga Kahn told the board.
Each applicant was asked to explain his or her interest in the planning committee. Board members Wolf and Carboni then posed additional questions.
“Home ownership is a very important component,” said Wolf. “I was wondering how you felt about that,” he asked the first applicant, Roland Blair.
Carboni’s question was about nonresidential uses of the property. “Have you thought of other uses that the town might explore?” she asked all the applicants present.
When Kahn mentioned mixed-use housing, Carboni asked for clarification: “So when you say mixed-use, you mean housing types?” she asked. Kahn answered affirmatively. “But uses other than residential uses for the property?” Carboni asked.
“I think that should be considered,” said Kahn, “but we are focused on housing.”
Applicant Peter Simon, who said he has worked in public health for 40 years, suggested that his expertise would be on the environmental impact of the project. “Am I hearing that the home ownership component isn’t as important?” Wolf asked him.
“I am thrilled that you are a possibility for this important committee,” Kathleen Bacon said to applicant Heather Doyle. “I have gotten to know you over the years, and I think you would be a great person to have.”
Applicant Farrukh Najmi was also a familiar face to some board members. “Just from knowing Farrukh and working with him previously, I think he would be an excellent candidate,” Wolf said.
“I had the opportunity to work with Farrukh for an hour last week on some technical issue with my iPad,” Bacon noted.
After the board completed the interviews, Bacon again appealed to her colleagues: “If I am not preempting anything here, I would like to suggest that my fellow board member Barbara Carboni be considered for this very important committee,” she said.
Her appeal went unanswered, and the board proceeded to discuss how to properly conduct a vote, which proved to be difficult.
“I was wondering how we do this,” said Carboni. Bacon proposed voting on a slate of candidates, and Curley suggested going down the list of applicants one by one. The board went back and forth for a while on which system was better.
Finally, Curley said, “Well, we have to do something.”
After slowly toggling between the applicants, the board reached a consensus on six appointments, all of whom had been members of the Maurice’s Campground Working Group: Roland Blair, Gary Sorkin, Sharon Rule-Agger, Emily Achtenburg, Heather Doyle, and Farrukh Najmi.
“You’re missing select board member Carboni,” Bacon said.
“We can’t do that appointment,” Curley responded. “It has to be through the town administrator.”
The board determined that its final appointment to the committee would go to one of two other candidates, Olga Kahn or Carl Sussman. Candidates Jan Plaue, Peter Simon, and Brian Stern were no longer in the running.
Kahn is an architect and a member of the Wellfleet Planning Board. She was also a member of the Maurice’s working group and the 95 Lawrence Road task force for affordable housing. Sussman is the founder of Sussman Associates, a nonprofit management consulting firm with extensive background in affordable housing development. He was a member of the 95 Lawrence Road task force.
“I can’t tell you the value you are going to get in having someone like Carl Sussman on this committee,” Bacon said to her colleagues.
“I just think that Olga brings a lot of important experience and interest to the table as well,” Carboni responded.
“It would be hard for me to vote ‘no’ on either Olga or Carl,” Wolf said.
“I think we already have our first six that we are in agreement with, so let’s not start reconsidering those,” Curley said.
The board voted: two votes for Kahn and two for Sussman.
“Are we at a Mexican standoff?” asked Bacon.
The board then decided to wait to vote on the last appointment until all five members are present, presumably at its next meeting.
“It is never great to have to choose between two different people,” Curley told the Independent.
The board’s discussion concluded with a note of gratitude from Carboni: “I would just like to thank my colleague, Ms. Bacon, for suggesting that I be on this committee.”